Australian food packaging not shelf friendly

More than 70 packaging technologists, engineers and designers came together across three states in one week to look at ways to improve Shelf Friendly Packaging (SFP).

Supported by Woolworths, the Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP) and retail anylists IGD, the in-store training aimed to understand what is currently working on supermarket shelves and how improvements can be made to improve design, functionality, accessibility and appearance on shelves.

James Tupper, ECR Learning & Change Manager, IGD, travelled from the United Kingdom to run the 2012 AIP/IGD hands-on training which was designed to focus on the last 50 metres of the SFP supply chain.

It provided packaging technologists, SFP designers and manufacturers the opportunity to work hands-on in-store and understand the complexities and difficulties that poor SFP design causes for store fillers and staff.

The training allowed the attendees the opportunity to participate in three practical exercises in-store that showed what SFP works, which doesn’t and why.

Attendees soon realised that tape over perforations, poor gluing of boxes, perforations that don’t open, no finger holes, poor design and identification of front edges and poor quality corrugate are just some of the reasons why SFP is not used in-store.

“At the end of the day much of the Shelf Friendly Packaging in Australia is not fit-for-purpose and needs to be redesigned,” one attendee said.

How do you think packaging in Australia needs to be changed to make it shelf friendly?

New invention gets sauces out of bottles as quick as water

A clever scientist in the US has come up with a way to make the process of getting sauces out of their bottles easier and most importantly, quicker.

Everyone has experienced the frustration of watching their favourite hot food go cold while they wait for the sauce to make its way out of the bottle.

Heinz, for example, says the ketchup in their iconic glass bottle moves its way out at the painfully slow speed of 0.028 miles (0.045 kilometres) per hour.

But when you’re standing on the sidelines of the junior rugby with a sausage sanga or cheering from the stands during the Origin series, that is just not good enough.

Luckily, MIT PhD candidate Dave Smith has identified a solution for the speed issue, which is cause by friction inside the bottle.

Along with a team of mechanical engineers and nano-technologists, he has developed LiquiGlide, a revolutionary product, which when applied inside the bottle during manufacture, allows sauces or other food products to slide out easily.

The product is made from materials approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and makes everything from tomato sauce to mayonnaise slide out of the bottle with ease, leaving little residue.

Smith describes the product, which recently came in second at the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition, as a “kind of a structured liquid – it’s rigid like a solid, but it’s lubricated like a liquid.”

It could be awhile before the product, which Smith says would be worth $17 billion, is readily available, and he has warded against potential copycats and “patented the hell out of it.”

Watch LiquidGlide work its magic in the videos below.



Folic acid reduces childhood cancer rates

Folic acid has been proven to reduce the chances of neural tube defects (NTDs) in unborn babies, and now new research has found it could also reduce the most common types of cancers in children.

Research from Washington University and the University of Minnesota, published in the current issue of Paediatrics, looked at the rates of childhood cancer before and after to mandatory folic acid fortification.

“Our study is the largest to date to show that folic acid fortification may lower the incidence of certain types of childhood cancer in the United States,” Professor Kimberly Johnson, one of the researchers, said.

Since 1988 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has required foods with folic acid to be fortified, and Australia implemented a similar initiative over a decade later, in 2009, when  it became  mandatory for Australian millers to add folic acid, which is a form of the B vitamin folate, to wheat flour for making bread.

Johnson said a concern many countries have in deciding whether or not to fortify foods to reduce neural tube defects in newborns is the possibility that fortification may cause other issues, including cancers or pre-cancerous lesions.

A spokesperson from Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), the body that regulates the mandatory fortification, told Food Magazine the initial opposition also came from within the industry.

“There was initial opposition from the flour milling industry as they believed it would add considerable costs to their operations for new facilities, and increased ongoing operating and verification costs,” she told said.

During the two-year consultation period, FSANZ comprehensively assessed the potential health benefits and risks from increasing intakes of folic acid across the population and based on all available scientific evidence, adding folic acid to wheat flour for making bread in Australia is safe for the whole population.

It says it is “continuing to monitor emerging scientific research on folic acid and public health and safety,” and that “no new evidence has emerged to change our original conclusion that mandatory fortification with folic acid is safe.”

The folic acid fortification has had a positive impact on the rates of NTD’s, including Spina Bifida, in both countries, but now the benefit is thought to extend even further.

Johnson, who authored the study with Dr Amy Linabery said their research showed a reduction in the rates of  Wilms’ tumor, a type of kidney cancer, and primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNET), a type of brain cancer, in children since the folic acid fortification.

Wilms’ tumor rates were increasing prior to the mandatory folic acid fortification, but trended downwards around the time of the introduction.

 “PNET rates increased from 1986 to 1993 and decreased thereafter,” Johnson said.

“This change in the trend does not coincide exactly with folic acid fortification, but does coincide nicely with the 1992 recommendation for women of childbearing age to consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily.”

The study looked at data from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER) from the 1986 to 2008.

The SEER program has been collecting information on cancer rates throughout the US since the early 70’s.

Over 8,829 children, from birth to age four, who have been diagnosed with cancer, are included in the study.

Image: The Mirror







Smart label remembers the use-by date you forget

A revolutionary “smart food label” developed by European scientists, which would take the guess work out of use-by labels, could be mass produced by the end of this year, if it gets enough support.

The UWI Label, which can be used on a range of foods, contains a chemical-based indicator strip that tells you exactly how long that product has been opened.

Developed by Pete Higgins, in conjunction with scientists from Heriot-Watt University, in Edinburgh, Scotland, the inventors say the system could save countless food poisoning cases and significantly eliminate food wastage.

“The label on the back might have small print that says something like “once opened, use within 4 weeks” (or whatever the period might be) but, how do you remember when you first opened the jar?” the creators ask.

You don’t, that say, you forget and you then either take a risk or throw it away. Sound familiar?

“The label reacts as a soon as a food jar or packaging is opened, then gives a visual warning when the product is no longer safe to consume,” Higgins said.

The UWI Label knows when you opened the jar for the first time  shows you how long it has been opened tells you when it has reached its “use within” period and when it may no longer safe to use or consume.

Indicator panels in the label progressively turn green to show the elapsed time from the opening of a product and a red panel alerts consumers when the “use within” period has expired.

UWI Label time ranges can be set as hours, days, weeks, months up to a six month and is pre-set during manufacturing of the product.

The inventors have made it to the final of the Barclays Take One Small Step competition, which helps entrepreneurs in Great Britain to turn their ideas into reality, with £50,000 funding, exposure and support.

The public voting starts 30 May and concludes 27 June, and the inventors say they “will be working tirelessly throughout this four week period to get as many supporters as possible.”

They say while the label would be extremely beneficial for food products, it could offer significant improvements to various industries.

 “Beyond the obvious application for food production, the technology is also suitable in other sectors where products have a critical shelf life once opened – including industrial glues and sealants, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, blood transfusion services and veterinary,” Higgins said.


Federal Government provides $1m funding to improve dairy technology

Dairy Australia has received $1 million from the Federal Government to conduct research to assess energy efficiency on dairy farms nation-wide.

As the national services body for dairy farmers and the industry, Dairy Australia helps farmers adapt to a changing operating environment, and work towards a profitable, sustainable dairy industry.

The funding will provide over 900 farmers with information and support to improve farm energy efficiency, hopefully cutting costs for individual farmers and larger organisations, who are struggling to compete in the current retail environment.

Earlier this month, dairy farming was rated the second worst job in the world, based on physical demands, work environment, income, stress and hiring outlook. 

In April, Western Australian farmers met with Wesfarmers boss Richard Goyder to discuss the impact of the milk price wars on production and try to find a solution.

The farmers want fairer pricing strategies from the group, which includes Coles, and last week the WA Farmers Federation passed a motion to boycott Wesfarmers and its subsidiaries.

The WA Farmers Dairy Council say the “predatory pricing” by the major supermarkets have devalued the industry.

The Australian Dairy Industry Council’s project is also supported by the Australian Dairy Industry Council, milk processors and state agencies.

Manager of Dairy Australia’s Natural Resource Management Program, Catherine Phelps, said the cost of using energy is a major concern for farmers and other workers in the dairy industry.

 “The conditions are right for a very effective national project,” she said.

“The secured funding would help deliver energy assessments to all eight dairy regions across Australia, tailoring it to meet local needs.”

Some of the recommended options will most likely include changes to management practices, optimisation of current equipment and capital investment, Phelps explained.

UNSW, Korea join forces to reduce allergens during food and drink processing

Australian researchers have identified processing techniques which will minimise the adverse effects of allergens in milk and other food products.

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) food scientists are working on altering the properties of the allergenic proteins, and have signed a memorandum of understanding with the UNSW School of Chemical Engineering, as well as Korea’s National Institute of Animal Science (NIAS).

The collaboration is part of the Rural Development Administration Department, which will export potential benefits of various food safety technologies.

The food allergy research group at UNSW, led by Dr Alice Lee, is working towards developing nano-sensors that can better detect allergens in food and indentify how these allergens change after harvest during food processing, and eventually result in an adverse reaction when consumed by humans.

There are various proteins contained in animal milk which can cause humans to have adverse immune responses, and reactions range from slight intolerances to potentially life threatening anaphylaxis.

“Food allergy has been an emerging food safety concern especially in developed countries,” Lee, a senior lecturer in Food Science and Technology, said.

“The current collaborative research project we have with the National Institute of Animal Science is focused on reducing the health risks of milk allergens by a means of high pressure processing.”

Lee said the food safety research at UNSW is largely focused on developing novel detection technology and new methods to improve the safety of foods, at both the farm and at the processing levels.

Under the new agreement, a NIAS researcher is working closely with the UNSW’s Food Science and Technology group, which is also looking at microbiological risks including E.coli and salmonella, as well as chemical risks posed by traces of things like antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides.

Lee said antibiotics are often administered to livestock in very low doses to fend off bacteria growth, but leftover residues can sometimes be present in meat, leading to damaging health impacts when humans are exposed.

He explained that Korea’s Rural Development Administration Department is comparable to Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, and has a broad research focus, with a range of possibilities for future research collaborations in the areas of food safety.

“Korea and Australia share a common interest in food security, global food availability, and food safety – especially around livestock hygiene,” Professor Rob Burford, head of the School of Chemical Engineering, said.

“This is an exciting partnership for UNSW.”

New beef cut discovered; creator says will be best yet

A meat expert has found a new cut of beef, known as the ‘Vegas Strip Steak.’

Creator Tony Mata has spent three decades researching beef carcasses to develop the cut, which will be protected by intellectual property and patent regulations.

There are about 20 different types of official meat cuts, but somehow Mata discovered one that had not yet been discovered, which according to value-added meat processing specialist, Jacob Nelson, was thought to be an “impossibility.”

“The Vegas Strip Steak is the latest and perhaps last steak to be found from the beef carcass,” Nelson told Cattle Network.

Because the intellectual copyright and patents are still pending, Mata can't say exactly what the cut is, but he has confirmed it will tick all the boxes.

“This muscle produces a steak that is on par with or better than today’s most popular steaks,” he said.

“It does not require aging or marinating to achieve tenderness and its visual appeal enhances the steak eater’s overall enjoyment.”

“The Vegas Strip Steak was well received by the audience.

“They tasted it, loved it and applauded.”


220 000 cases of diabetes could be prevented by 2025

Australian researchers have examined three options for beating obesity and discovered they could prevent about 220 000 cases of type 2 diabetes nationwide by 2025.

The team from the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute identified a high-risk prevention strategy to begin tackling the obesity epidemic and rise in the number of type 2 diabetes.

Over 11 per cent, or just over two million people, will have diabetes in Australia by 2025, if current trends continue, the researchers found.

They modelled future diabetes cases that could be averted using one of three strategies, the ‘junk food tax,’ counselling and gastric banding.

The junk food tax – or fat tax – as well as a tax on sugary drinks have all been suggested in the last six months as possible ways to curb obesity rates.

A nation-wide tax on unhealthy foods could lead to body mass index decreasing by around 0.5kg/m2.

Preventing diabetes in those at high risk of developing diabetes would include behavioural modification programs, which would include six counselling sessions to monitor a reduction of fat and saturated fat in the diet, an increase in fibre, participation in at least four hours of moderate physical activity per week, culminating in weight loss of more than five per cent over 8-12 months.

This strategy was found to be the most effective, averting 220,000 of diabetes cases by 2025, which equates to a 10 per cent reduction, meaning 10 per cent of the population would be sufferers, down from 11.4 per cent.

The third strategy, for those who are already morbidly obese and therefore at the highest risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Gastric banding of those in the morbidly obese category who had newly diagnosed diabetes would see a 73 remission rate of type 2 diabetes, according to the study.

The surgically induced weight loss interventions prevented about 65 000 cases of diabetes in 2025 respectively. Combining the three interventions would avert around 253,000 cases.

On of the lead researchers, Dr Kathryn Backholer, said preventing the prevalence of diabetes would be more financially viable than continuing current treatments.

“Given the costly complications associated with diabetes, reducing the burden of diabetes by even 10 per cent is likely to have a profound influence on Australia’s health care system,” she said.

“The costs of managing diabetes are likely to increase over time as the population ages and people with diabetes are receiving better treatment and thus living longer.”

“We need to focus preventive efforts towards intensive lifestyle intervention programs to ensure the best success of reducing the future burden of diabetes.”

The findings will be presented today at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Obesity in Lyon, France.

Sales of fair trade certified products still rising

Sales of products carrying the Fair Trade Certified logo have increased by almost 40 per cent, as consumers become more informed about work conditions for foreign workers.

Saturday marked the beginning of Fair Trade Fortnight, which aims to bring more awareness to the free trade cause.

Fairtrade Australia New Zealand (Fairtrade ANZ) said the increase in Fair Trade certified products in 2011 represents just over $165 million for the cause, which helps to ensure decent working conditions for employees.

In 2010, over AU$63.8 million in additional Fairtrade Premium payments were made globally to farmers for investment in growing their businesses, improving the quality of product and providing their communities with essential services such as healthcare and education.

Fairtrade ANZ chief executive Stephen Knapp said the growth shows Australian shoppers and businesses continue to believe every choice matters when it comes to giving farmers in developing countries a fair go.


“Whether it’s your morning coffee or the products your workplace uses for the office canteen, every choice matters,” Knapp said.


“Unlike any other third party certification system, Fairtrade works in partnership with small-scale farmers in developing countries to provide fairer prices, better terms of trade and additional funds for business and community development.

“Making a choice that matters and choosing Fairtrade is now easier than ever for Aussies shoppers with the number of Australian businesses licensed to sell products carrying the FAIRTRADE Mark rising by over 13% per cent to 220 and a range of Fairtrade Certified products now readily available on major supermarket shelves across the country,” he said.

Last year a number of large food brands started offering Fairtrade choices to Australian consumers including Starbucks and San Churro, which both now serve 100 per cent Fairtrade Certified espresso in their stores throughout the country.

Fairtrade Certified coffee on the supermarket shelves also continued to grow with brands including Republica, Oxfam, Global Café Direct and Grinders and Marco offering Fairtrade Certified and organic coffees.

“The choice of these businesses to support and offer Fairtrade Certified products is reflective of the continued demand by consumers who more than ever know that every choice matters, even in harder economic times,” Knapp said.

“Even in tough times Aussie shoppers understand the sense and importance of a fair go for all.

“They are continuing to make the choice to buy Fairtrade Certified products because they know they are making a choice that matters – one which makes a real difference to the lives of millions of farmers and their communities in some of the world’s poorest countries,” he said.


In October last year , a global poll has revealed  more Australians not only recognise the Fairtrade label, but are also actively looking for it when making purchases.

Of the 17 000 consumers Fairtrade surveyed from 24 different countries, over half said they believed buying certified free trade would help farmers in developing countries.

Over six in ten surveyed said they trust the Fairtrade Label and use it to make decisions.

Do you look for Fairtrade Certified products when shopping or eating out?

Garlic compound can prevent food poisoning

An ingredient in garlic has been found to be 100 times more powerful than two popular antibiotics at fighting one of the most common causes of food poisoning.

The researchers from Washington State University had their findings published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, and believe the discovery could provide revolutionary approaches to food safety.

They say the diallyl sulphide compound in garlic could provide new, more natural, approaches to the way raw and processed meats and food preparation surfaces are treated.

Dr Xianon Lu and Dr Michael Konkel  examined how the compound could kill bacterium when it is protected by a slimy biofilm, which makes it 1000 times more resistant to antibiotics rthan a free floating bacteria cell.

It can easily penetrate the protective biofilm and kill bacteria cell by combining with a sulphur-containing enzyme, they found, which then changed the enzyme’s function and shut down cell metabolism.

They discovered diallyl sulphide is 100 times more effective than regularly prescribed antibiotics erythromycin and ciprofloxacin and could often would work in half the time.

The study’s co-author Dr Michael Konkel said the compound is extremely potent.

“This compound has the potential to reduce disease-causing bacteria in the environment and in our food supply. This is the first step in developing or thinking about new intervention strategies.

“This compound has the potential to reduce disease-causing bacteria in the environment and in our food supply,” Konkel said.

“This is the first step in developing or thinking about new intervention strategies.”

Konkel did caution people against getting too excited, however, as the work is still in early stages, and far away from actual application.

He also advised people not stuff themselves with garlic in the hope it will prevent all food poisoning, because while garlic is healthy for you, it will not necessarily prevent against Campylobacter-related food poisoning.

If the findings result in applications to ward against food poisoning, it will be in the form of a scientifically created products produced from the active compound.

40 per cent of elderly Australians at risk of malnourishment


More than 40 per cent of older Australians living in community housing are “malnourished or at risk of malnourishment,” according to a new study.

The Melbourne-based report, published in the Dietitions Association of Australia’s journal, Nutrition and Dietetics, was the result of a three month study.

Community nurses in Victoria assessed the malnutrition of 235 clients aged 65 and older and found one in three were identified as being at risk of malnutrition, while eight per cent were classified malnourished.

Only 41 per cent were in a healthy weight range, with 40 per cent overweight or obese and nineteen per cent underweight.

The average age of the participant was 82, with a range from 65 to 100.

Most of them were living on a pension and had an annual income of less that $30 000.

They lived at home, either alone or with a spouse, or with other family.

While the federal government recently released a 10-year plan to improve aged care throughout the country, Dietitians Association of Australia chief executive Claire Hewat said more attention needs to be paid to older people living within the community.

There have long been calls for the aged pension to be increased, with both qualitative and quantitative data showing that it is almost impossible for an older person to cover expenses and properly feed and clothe themselves on the current amount.

Previous Australian research has also found one in three hospital patients and almost 70 per cent of residents in aged care facilities are malnourished, Hewat pointed out.

Accredited Practising Dietition and leader of the study, Georgie Rist, said malnourishment is particularly problematic for the elderly, and those with regular contact with older people need to be aware of the signs and impacts.

 “Malnutrition is linked with poorer health, meaning increased GP visits, more admissions to hospital and longer hospital stays, and early admission to nursing homes,” she said.

“Community nurses are ideally placed to pick-up nutrition issues in older people as they are at the forefront of client care in the home.”

Image: Getty Images

Soaring raw coffee prices predicted to drop in 2012

Raw coffee prices reached record highs in 2011, but increased production in Brazil will hopefully alleviate some of the pressure for buyers.

In coffee supplier Gilkatho’s annual survey, it found that last year had the most costly raw coffee prices, which then flows onto suppliers and retailers.

The Gilkatho Cappuccino Price Index (CPI), which has been conducted for the past decade by Gilkatho, which surveys over 900 cafes in Australian capital cities to understand the change in coffee prices over time.

Australian consumer coffee prices have risen over the past six months, the research found.

In Sydney the average price of a takeaway coffee has risen from $3.11 to $3.19 while Melbourne coffee drinkers have seen a similar change, with prices increasing 14 cents to $3.35 in the period.

However, there could be some evidence that the coffee beans themselves are not causing the price increase, but rather the cost of the takeaway cups they’re sold in.

The price of dine-in coffees has not changed in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane.

Gilkatho’s Managing Director, Wayne Fowler, said retailers are increasing the costs of items such as coffee to meet other rising costs in running the business.

 “The March CPI portrays a continuing trend of steady price increase reflecting the healthiness of the Australian coffee market as consumers appear willing to pay the increased costs.”

Following the record prices of raw coffee last year, Fowler is predicting a drop in prices in 2012 due to record production in Brazil.

He pointed towards countries including Kenya, which is producing high quality beans that it sells for lower prices into the international market.

Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner. And Detergent. And Explosives. And Floor Wax.

When a cow tested positive for mad cow disease in America for the first time since 2006, the USDA announced Tuesday.

Officials were quick to assure the public that the slaughtered former dairy cow was located at a rendering plant, and that its flesh was never going to enter the human food supply.

If you’re not going to eat a dead cow’s meat, what are you supposed to do with it?

Make pet food, floor wax, and explosives, among many other things. Rendering plants take animals or animal parts that are unsuitable for human consumption and separate them into two streams: fat and protein.

There are innumerable uses for those basic building blocks.

Most of the dry, proteinaceous matter is sprinkled onto livestock feed as a nutritional supplement.

(Cattle protein cannot be fed to other cattle due to concerns over mad cow disease, but farmers do feed it to other animals.)

As for the liquid fat and oil, some enters the livestock food chain along with the protein—it increases caloric content and reduces the dustiness of plain corn or soy feed.

A large portion of the liquids, however, are sold on to refineries that reduce them into chemicals to make crayons, shaving cream, detergent, and a long list of other products.

Glycerin, one of the many chemicals that can be derived from cow fat, is an ingredient in dynamite.*

In recent years, rendered cow fat has been increasingly used to make biofuels, and researchers are experimenting with adding animal byproducts to concrete and plastics.

Americans produce an astonishing quantity of cow leftovers. U.S. slaughterhouses kill more than 34 million cattle annually, with each individual weighing approximately 1,250 pounds.

Humans are only willing to eat 51 percent of a cow or bull’s body, leaving behind 10.5 million tons of hide, hair, hoofs, horns, bones, blood, and glands to deal with.

That back-of-the-envelope calculation is likely an underestimate of the total cattle rendering stream, though, because many diseased cattle are discarded and rendered in their entirety.

(The animal identified this week seems to have fallen into this category, although there is no indication that it was showing any particular signs of mad cow disease prior to slaughter.)

Leftover cow parts like hooves and hair aren’t worth very much in their whole form, so renderers grind them into a paste or powder and load that into a cooking vessel at a steady rate while 300-degree heat, pressure, and steam break it down.

The renderer might add other, non-animal waste products into the cauldron, such as used vegetable oil. Around one-half of the paste is water, which cooks off during this process.

The lumpy soup that emerges from the other end of the cooker is then separated into liquid fats and solid proteins, using either a centrifuge or a press.

A small amount of rendered beef ends up in human food.

The now notorious “pink slime” that many food chains had been putting into their products is made of fat that has been trimmed from beef and put through the rendering process.

The USDA monitors rendered-cow byproducts intended for human consumption more closely than floor-wax-to-be.

While many Americans find the process foul, and some worry about the industry’s safety, renderers argue that their work provides a use for a potentially enormous waste stream.

It also lends a small economic boost to ranchers. Cattle byproducts sell for 37 cents per pound (about 13 percent as much as a farmer gets for beef).

This article originally appeared on Slate. View the full article here.

US mad cow disease discovery shows good systems in place: animal groups

The discovery of mad cow disease in the US is a positive occurrence, according to some animal groups.

The United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) believe that the find shows the country’s health monitoring system is working.

“This detection demonstrates that the national surveillance system is efficient,” the OIE said.

“This case should not have implications for the current U.S. risk categorization.”

This is the first detected case of mad cow disease in the US since a mass outbreak in 2006.

The first case was discovered in 2003, on an animal that came from Canada, and since then three other herds were found to be affected.
FAO Chief Veterinary Officer Juan Lubroth said importers of US beef should be encouraged by the discovery of the disease before it entered the food chain.
“The fact that the U.S. picked it up before it entered the food chain and the fact that they were transparent should give more confidence to the trading partners, not less,” Lubroth said.
“However, I do see that sometimes countries take measures that are not based on science and that we do not support.”

Local authorities say the infected cow, from California, will not pose a threat to the nation’s food supply.

The tested positive during a routine check for the illness, or atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported.

The USDA’s chief veterinarian John Clifford said the disease didn’t enter the human food chain and has not been detected in any other animals.

USDA statements say steps taken by U.S. authorities in the case are in line with OIE standards.

“The fact that it was picked up before anything entered the food chain is significant,” Lubroth said. “It shows that the surveillance systems in place have done their job.”

About 40,000 cows are randomly tested each year in the US, which represents less than 0.1 percent of the entire number, and these regimes are not rigid enough to ensure diseased cows don’t get into the food supply, according to Michael Hansen, a staff scientist at Yonkers, New York-based advocacy group Consumers Union.

Airplane food tastes strange … and here’s why

Many people find being high up an unpleasant experience. This is not just mountain sickness or acrophobia – it turns out our taste buds too have no head for heights.

Taste is not just determined by the gustatory qualities of the food. It is also substantially influenced by the state of your mouth. Transient changes in our sense of taste are quite common.

This can occur with gum and dental disease and mouth problems such as thrush and mucositis associated with a cold/flu or chemotherapy. Some medications can also alter taste sensation including some anti-hypertensive drugs, antibiotics and antihistamines.

Contaminated pine nuts may also trigger a persistent unpleasant taste, known as pine mouth.

Low zinc levels can also alter our sense of taste. Most Australians don’t receive their recommended daily intake (RDI) of zinc. This can be a particular problem as, unlike iron and other trace metals we need for health, we don’t store zinc in our bodies, so we need a daily fix to maintain healthy levels.

The best dietary sources of zinc are crustaceans, meat and poultry. Many cereals and other products are now fortified with zinc. Zinc is also present in many nutritional supplements and multivitamins.

Strict vegetarians are at increased risk of low zinc levels, partly as they avoid zinc-rich meat and partly as fibre in plants reduces zinc absorption. Alcoholics and those with digestive diseases are also more likely to become zinc-deficient.

Changing tastes

So what about the food served on a plane? Actually, there may really be a reason why meals doesn’t taste any good at altitude (beyond the fact you are flying cattle class).

As most commercial flights go up, the atmospheric pressure is slowly reduced, on average, to the equivalent of standing on the summit of Mount Kosciuszko (2,228 metres or 7,310 feet above sea level).

That’s why ear-popping occurs on take-off, as air within the middle ear expands, builds up pressure and eventually pops out through the Eustachian tubes into the nose.

Newer aircraft, such as the Airbus A380, keep a lower cabin pressure (1,500 metres), equivalent to standing at Falls Creek, Victoria, at about 1,780 metres.

It is well known that reduced atmospheric pressure and lower oxygen levels dull the appetite. But even the modest changes in altitude associated with plane travel may be sufficient to change sensitivity for some tastes.

One small study showed that the threshold for tasting sweet or salty tasting substances increased when you go from sea level to 3,500 metres, while thresholds for sour and bitter went down. In other words, really sweet things didn’t taste so bad, but slightly acidic or bitter things, such as a sauvignon blanc or coffee, tasted a whole lot worse.

High and dry

The dry atmosphere inside a plane’s cabin also dries out the mouth. Typically relative humidity is very low at less than 10%. The only place on the ground that gets this low is in Death Valley, California. By comparison, average humidity in the Sahara Desert is about 25%.

Although most people notice dry, sore eyes and dry, itchy skin after long flights, progressive drying of the nose and mouth also occurs, producing an unpleasant “pastie” sensation (much like cotton in the mouth).

In particular, saliva reduces its water content to become more concentrated and more viscous. This can leave a salty taste in the mouth and affect the level at which salt can be tasted in food. An increased concentration of glutamate (which naturally occurs in saliva) can also produce an unpleasant taste.

More importantly, taste in food is a function of its solubility in saliva. Taste molecules must dissolve in the salivary fluid layer to reach and stimulate taste receptors.

Again, a dry mouth makes this more difficult for some tastes, especially sweet and salty. At the same time the buffering capacity of saliva falls, increasing the intensity of sour tastes in food and drink.

When you are dry, almost any cold drink tastes good, even those that would be distasteful when you are well hydrated. This fact, in combination with aforementioned changes in taste sensitivity, may partly explain recently publicised reports by Lufthansa scientists that tomato juice is more popular on flights, while few people touch the stuff on the ground.

A rational response would be to serve more sweet and spicy food on planes and less astringent wine, to be as appetising as food tastes on the ground.

But because of the noise, the vibration, the cramped conditions, and re-heated mass-produced food, eating on planes won’t ever make for a pleasurable dining experience – so just keep coming round with the cold water, thanks!

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

Merlin Thomas is a Professor of Preventative Medicine at Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute.

Children’s neighbourhoods making them obese

A US study has found conclusive evidence that where a child lives has a significant impact on their chances of being obese.

A neighbourhood’s good walkability, proximity to high quality parks, and access to healthy food can lower the chances of being obese by almost 60 per cent, the study found.

The report, published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, Obesogenic Neighborhood Environments, Child and Parent Obesity: The Neighborhood Impact on Kids, was one of the first to look at how location impacts children’s nutrition and physical activity.

Researchers assessed Seattle and San Diego area neighborhoods’ nutrition and physical activity environments, which were defined based on supermarket availability and concentration of fast food restaurants.

The physical activity environments were defined by environmental factors including a neighbourhood’s walkability, and needed at least one park with more or better amenities for children.

Children living in neighbourhoods with low physical activity and nutrition environments had the highest rates of obesity at almost 16 per cent.

That figure is akin to the national average for obesity rates in the US, those high physical activity and nutrition neighbourhoods had half that obesity rate.

"People think of childhood obesity and immediately think about an individual’s physical activity and nutrition behaviors, but they do not necessarily equate obesity with where people live," Dr. Saelens, professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington and one of the leaders of the study, said.

"Everyone from parents to policymakers should pay more attention to zip codes because they could have a big impact on weight."

“Reduced salt” label reduced taste perception: study

A “reduced salt” label on a food product will make a consumer experience a reduced level of taste, even if it is not in fact lower in salt.

A Deakin University study, which recruited 50 participants to taste soups with the same salt content, but it labelled some as “reduced salt.”

Those labelled as low sodium actually had the same salt content as the other soups, but participants reported that they found them less tasty.

After the initial tasting of each soup, participants were could add salt to all the soups they thought needed it.

“We found that when a product was labeled as ‘reduced salt’, people believed the food was not as tasty as the unlabeled version, despite it having the same salt content,” Deakin health expert Dr Gie Liem.

“This negative taste experience resulted in more people adding more salt to the soup, than when such a label was not present.

“Interestingly, the Heart Foundation tick did not influence taste perception.”

As cardiologists and nutritionalists keep advising low-salt diets as the ideal way to curb the ever-increasing rates of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, the findings from this study could impact the way salt reduced products are marketed, according to Liem.

“The reduction of salt in processed foods is needed and highly encouraged.,” he said.

“Often consumers can hardly taste the difference between salt reduced and non-salt reduced products.

“However, the results of our study indicate we need to be careful about how salt reduced products are marketed, so that consumers will not be turned off these products from a taste perspective.”

Most people today consume eight to nine grams of salt each day, while the recommended dose is no more than four grams daily.

“This study highlights that promoting salt reduction as part of front-of-pack labeling can have a negative effect on how consumers perceive the taste of the product and on salt use.

“Therefore it’s important for researchers, public health professionals, industry and governments to work together to carefully consider how best to communicate this message to consumers.”