Man killed by fall in grain carrier

A 50-year-old man died on Saturday when he fell into an empty grain bulk carrier in the Port of Newcastle.

The Hamilton man had been repairing metal inside the empty grain carrier when he fell a considerable distance from an elevated platform, according to Police Inspector Darryn Cox.

Ambulances arrived on the scene shortly after the fall, which occurred about 8:30am Saturday morning.

The man’s name has not yet been released and government authority and WorkCover representatives attended the scene over the weekend.

A spokesperson from the Newcastle Port Corporation said police inquiries are continuing and a report is being prepared for the coroner.

Undeclared “meat glue” used in countless American products

First it was “pink slime” horrifying consumers in the US, now it’s emerged that millions of Americans are also consuming “meat glue” each week.

The additive is used to produce not only meats found in fast food outlets, but also supermarkets, local delis and restaurants.

Even vegetarian foods have been found to contain “meat glue.”

The two main types of "meat glue"

The “meat glue” is made up two major types, the first transglutaminase Activa, a white powder form of a natural coagulant-like enzyme called transglutaminase.

The other type is Fibrimex, which is made of enzymes extracted from pig or beef blood by a process developed in the Netherlands.

According to the companies who make the “meat glue” they were designed to bond pieces of protein or irregularly shaped meat so it can be cut and cooked evenly by the food-service industry.

Food scientists told Scripps News Network the two cold-binding agents are used to reduce the use of sodium phosphate, sodium alginate, carrageenan, sodium caseinate and other chemicals that had been used for decades to form and mold meat.

Despite US laws requiring labelling to disclose the inclusion of the two brands of protein adhesive are apparently being ignored, according to an investigation by Scripps Howard News Service, which found almost none of the companies tested declared the additive.

Over five months, Scripps examined over 130 meats and deli products in Seattle, Milwaukee, Omaha and Denver which food scientists found contained the adhesive mixtures, but only four of them had the word “enzymes” on the ingredients list.

No companies would discuss the use of the additive, but it is estimated by food scientists that it is found in up to 35 per cent of all sliced ham, beef, chicken, fish, pizza toppings and other deli meats.

Cold cut processors and fast food outlets including McDonald’s and Arby’s were contacted by Scripps to discuss the use of the additive, but all declined to comment, on whether they use transglutaminase or blood-extract products,  raising concerns over the use of processing products.

While the government regulates that the use of the product should be included on a product’s ingredient list, producers can use a loophole which defines binders as a “processing aid.”

Is this the next "pink slime?"

Similarly to the “pink slime,” which is used as a cheap ground-beef filler, meat glue is not considered a health risk by federal food watchdogs, but consumers are disgusted and frightened by the inclusion of such additives.

After much publicity in 2011 and 2012, the use of pink slime has fallen in the US, although there are reports it is still being used in school lunches.

Experts say the US food industry needs to be accountable for it’s actions and be more transparent with consumers.

“For decades, the meat industry has conveniently operated in the dark, not sharing the dirty details of their practices with the public, while the federal government looked the other way,” Michele Simon, a policy consultant for the Center for Food Safety, told Scripps.

“But now, consumers are demanding to know the truth about what they are.

"We need more transparency in a food system that puts profits before people.”

The impact on religion and diet

The undeclared use of Activa and Fibrimex can cause issues for people with beliefs or dietary restrictions.

Jewish or Muslim consumers could be eating pork products chicken or fish pieces without being aware and vegetarians could be unknowingly consuming meat in their apparently “meat-free” products.

“There may be economic adulteration going on here, and the (U.S. Department of Agriculture) or the (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) needs to look at whether laws are being violated,” Tony Corbo, legislative representative for the national consumer group Food & Water Watch said.

“We are especially appalled that certain consumers’ religious beliefs may be unknowingly violated because food manufacturers are hiding what goes into the production of these binding agents.”

The Australian standards

A spokesperson from Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) told Food Magazine in a statement that the use of the enzyme, transglutaminase, as a processing aid is permitted under the Processing Aids of the food standards Code.

“Like all processing aids, the safety and function of this enzyme was thoroughly assessed before it was permitted to be included in the Code,” the spokesperson said.

Clause 6 of the Meat and Meat Products of the Code states that “Where raw meat has been formed or joined in the semblance of a cut of meat using a binding system without the application of heat, whether coated or not, a declaration that the meat is either formed or joined, in conjunction with cooking instructions indicating how the microbiological safety of the product can be achieved must be included on the label; or if the food is not required to be labelled, must be provided to the purchaser."

“This mandatory information requirement applies to all raw meat that has been formed or joined and is available for retail sale,” the spokesperson told Food Magazine.

“Where there may be compliance concerns, for example raw meat that is joined or formed being sold without the required labelling, consumers can approach the relevant enforcement agencies with their concerns.

“In addition, where the physical form of the formed or joined meat is labelled in a manner that implies the meat is a whole cut (for example, raw formed or joined meat labelled as ‘steak’), such representations could be considered deceptive or misleading to consumers and would fall under  Australian Consumer Law.

“This legislation is administered and enforced jointly by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the state and territory consumer protection agencies.”

What do you think of these kinds of additives? Are they necessary? Should there be more stringent labelling rules?

Visy accused of using Hell’s Angels for debt collections

Packaging company Visy has labelled reports that it uses Hells Angels bikie gang members as debt collectors as “nonsense.”

According to Victorian newspaper The Herald Sun, a whistle-blower has revealed a connection between the bikie gang and the packaging company.

Visy allegedly pays the Hells Angels a retainer to ensure bikies are available for the company to use as “problem solvers” when required.

The Herald Sun reports that the senior police sources detected the connection in police intelligence files and detectives are now investigating the ties.

Superintended Gerry Ryan, head of bikie gang Taskforce Echo wouldn’t comment on specific reports, but did say police are aware of some questionable activity since debt collector regulations in Victoria changed last year.

"We are monitoring this closely," he told The Herald Sun.

"Taskforce Echo has received recent intelligence of instances where members of outlaw motorcycle gangs have been used to collect debts from individuals and businesses.

"We are monitoring these activities closely and will act swiftly if offences are being committed, including the use of physical force, harassment and intimidation tactics."

Last year the Victorian government changes the regulations for debt collectors so that they don’t have to be officially registered to undertake the role.

The move has been widely criticised, with opponents saying that without monitoring or registration, individuals or companies could pose a significant threat to those in debt.

According to a former senior employee at Visy, the connection with Hell’s Angels has been in place for years and was personally approved by founder Richard Pratt, who died in 2009.

These links first emerged in the County Court in 2007.

The former employee alleges that Visy was owed significant sums of money by criminals connected to the fruit and vegetable industry, and when they refused to pay up, the packaging company decided it had to meet muscle with muscle.

"So Visy kind of had to find someone of equal status to the market heavies to collect what was owed by the sort of people who just ignore requests from traditional debt collectors," the whistleblower said.

"A senior Visy employee knew a couple of Hells Angels through a former job.

“He approached them and that's how the relationship started, with Richard Pratt's knowledge and approval."

Image: News Ltd.

Obese women face discrimination in the workplace: study

Women who are obese are more likely to be discriminated against by employers, a new study has found.

The Monash University study, published in the Journal of Obesity, used the same people, with the same resume and experience pre and post bariatric surgery to examine whether being overweight jeopardised employment opportunities.

The lead researcher of the study, Dr Kerry O’Brien said the purpose of the study was not disclosed to the subjects throughout the research, as doing so could impact the results.

The team also looked at how body image and personality factors including authoritarianism and social dominance orientation was related to the discrimination surrounding obesity.

The rates of obesity in Australia are increasing, and many experts are calling for a "fat tax," a "sugar tax," bans on advertising junk foods to children and front-of-pack-labelling.

O’Brien and his colleague Janet Latner, from the University of Hawaii, said one of the interesting aspects of the findings was that the participants’ own body image was closely associated with obesity discrimination.

Therefore, the question must be asked whether employers are discriminating due to actual weight, or making judgements on personalities which are the result of the person’s opinion about their own appearance.

“The higher participants’ rated their own physical attractiveness and importance of physical appearance, the greater the anti-fat prejudice and discrimination,” O’Brien said.

“One interpretation of this finding might be that we feel better about our own bodies if we compare ourselves to, and discriminate against, fatter people, but we need to test this experimentally.”

This study is the first to show a relationship between self-reported measures of obesity prejudice and actual obesity discrimination.

The results suggest that a belief in the superiority of some individuals over others is related to the perception that obese individuals deserve fewer privileges and opportunities than non-fat individuals.

“Our findings show that there is a clear need to address obesity discrimination, particularly against females, who tend to bear the brunt of anti-fat prejudice. Prejudice reduction interventions and policies need to be developed,” O’Brien said

“It’s also becoming clear that the reasons for this prejudice appear to be related to our personalities and how we feel about ourselves, with attributions, such as ‘obese people are lazy, gluttonous, etc’ merely acting as self-justifications for the prejudice.”

The subject’s resumes, with a small photo of the applicant attached, were viewed by employers who rated their suitability, starting salary and employability.

“We used pictures of women pre-and post-bariatric surgery, and varied whether participants saw a resume that had a picture of an obese female attached, or the same female but in a normal weight range having undergone bariatric surgery,” Obrien said.

“We found that obesity discrimination was displayed across all selection criteria, such as starting salary, leadership potential, and likelihood of selection for the job.”

The researchers categorised the subjects prior to the resume submissions using the Universal Measure of Bias (UMB) score, which predicted actual obesity job discrimination.

They found that the higher a subject’s the UMB, the more likely they were to discriminate against obese candidates.

“Our findings show that there is a clear need to address obesity discrimination, particularly against females, who tend to bear the brunt of anti-fat prejudice,” O’Brien said.

Men did not appear to be discriminated against in the same way. 

The paper does not go into detail about the nature of jobs being applied for, so it is unclear if the candidates were applying for those which require a certain level of stamina and fitness.

What do you think of this study? Are you an obese person who has been discriminated against in your employment? 

A good soul: Soul Virgin Non-Alcoholic drinks

Product: Soul Virgins Non-Alcoholic Mojito

Manufacturer: Soul Beverages

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Sugar, Reconstituted Lemon Juice (1.8%), Reconstituted Lime Juice (1.7%), Food Acids (330), Clouding Agent, Flavours, Preservative (211).

Shelf life: 24 months

Packaging: Soul Beverages

Product Manager:  Michael Firth, Integrity Sales Management 0429 183 282

Website: www.drinksoul.com

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Product: Soul Virgins Non-Alcoholic Cosmopolitan

Manufacturer: Soul Beverages

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Cane Sugar, Reconstituted Cranberry Juice (4.5%), Reconstituted Lime Juice (1.0%), Acidity regulator (Citric Acid), Natural Flavour, Natural Clouding Agent, Preservative (211), Colour (129, 122).

Shelf life: 24 months

Packaging: Soul Beverages

Product Manager:  Michael Firth, Integrity Sales Management 0429 183 282

Website: www.drinksoul.com

What the company says:

Soft drinks brand Soul Virgins has landed in Australia

The soft drinks market has a new player in Australia. New Zealand brand Soul Virgins will be stocked in the country from April 2012 with initial distribution in 800 Woolworths across the country. 

The product is presented in glass bottles using the same combinations as the world’s most popular cocktails without the alcohol.

The brand has two variants in the Australian market: Soul Mojito – lime, lemon and mint and Soul Cosmopolitan – cranberry and lime.

These delicious sparkling beverages, made with fruit concentrates and natural flavours, are perfect for any occasion.

Whether you’re the designated driver, a mother-to-be, or you simply don’t have time for hangovers, soul virgins will quench your thirst.

Geoff Hunt, who founded the brand along with his wife Julia in 2009, is proud to talk about the success of Soul Virgins in New Zealand.

“As consumers continue their search for quality and innovative soft drinks, we felt it was time to bring these great flavours to the Australian market,” Geoff says.

“Soul Virgins is a true reflection of the brand’s effort to providing a premium, natural and delicious soft drink in a convenient format,” he adds.

The company shifts well over 1000 cartons per month in New Zealand and expects that number to increase fivefold when the Australian market speeds up. Soul is also a supporter of ‘Hello Sunday Morning’, a non-profit organisation committed to changing the world's relationship with alcohol.

Soul Virgins is currently available in Woolworths Supermarkets across Australia and distributed by Bravo Foods of S.A. and Atthow Agencies of Brisbane.

 

Advertising in bottle shops encourages youth binge drinking

Point-of-sale alcohol advertising is creating a generation of binge drinkers, according to new research.

Researchers from Curtin University and the University of Wollongong’s Centre for Health Initiatives (CHI) looked at 24 different bottle shops throughout Sydney and Perth and found the POS advertising potentially damaging to young drinkers.

The report, published in the Drug and Alcohol Review, found that merchandise giveaways, discount offers and competitions to be “aggressive” in attempts to lure younger drinkers, who are more likely to respond to such advertising.

The POS methods are creating a pro-alcohol environment, focused largely on young consumers, who are more likely to buy cheap alcohol and engage in competitions, the researchers found.

“Many people may think cheaper alcohol is a good idea, but this is generally because they are not aware of the strength of the relationship between price and consumption among young people,” CHI Professor Dr Sandra Jones said.

“What we have found in other studies is that young people are influenced by these promotions.

“They purchase more in order to obtain the 'free gift' or the 'discount' and, in many cases, they consume what they purchased – that is, more than they would otherwise have drunk.”

It’s not the first time a study has examined the link between advertising of cheap alcohol on young people’s brains, and Jones referred to a 2011 study which found an average of 33 promotions per alcohol outlet in Sydney and Perth.

It also reported that shops attached to supermarkets had a higher number of promotions which required a large quantity of alcohol to be purchased to be eligible for competitions.

Injury Control Council of WA Chief Executive Officer Debroah Costello believes the large quantities of alcohol required to enter competitions and the delivery of POS advertising is concerning.

“This exploitative form of marketing targets ‘at risk’ groups of drinkers, particularly youth, creating positive associations with alcohol and encouraging higher levels of alcohol consumption.

“This is particularly concerning when the Alcohol and Beverages Advertising Code states that ‘advertisements must not encourage excessive consumption or abuse of alcohol’.”

“As with all alcohol advertising there needs to be stricter guidelines around the use of POS that considers the negative impact on the community and way it can clearly perpetuate are drinking culture,” she says.

The researchers believe restrictions need to be implemented to limit the POS promotions in bottle shops and liquor outlets.

Do you think advertising alcohol in bottle shops needs more regulation?

Coles fined $170 000 over worker fall

Coles has been fined $170,000 and ordered to pay WorkCover’s legal costs after a worker sustained injuries when she fell through a ceiling at a Manly store in 2007.

The worker climbed over a handrail to access promotional material being stored on a suspended plasterboard ceiling on 29 August 2007, according to WorkCover.

The plasterboard collapsed and she fell more than two metres to the floor below and had to be transferred to hospital to be treated for lacerations to her head, whiplash and bruising.

An investigation by WorkCover found the company knew that using the roof cavity for storage was dangerous, and it had built a railing and posted a warning sign, but management failed to undertake a risk assessment on the ability of the plasterboard to withstand any weight.

They also failed to adequately warn staff not to access the area or use it for storage.

Coles Supermarkets Australia Pty Ltd pleaded guilty, and was convicted and fined $170,000 and required to pay WorkCover’s legal costs.

WorkCover’s General Manager of Work Health and Safety Division, John Watson, said a number of simple steps could have prevented the incident and as a national retailer, the company should have sufficient safety awareness and procedures.

“This business employs more 23,000 people in 238 stores across NSW, so the safety procedures of this company are relevant to a lot of people,” Watson said.

“This particular area should never have been allowed to be used to store merchandise and Coles management should have been more vigilant.

“While store management knew the area was not safe, the area was still used for storage and there was no proper information or training given to staff to warn of the risk.

“It is critically important that these types of hazards are identified at the workplace design stage and all reasonable and practicable steps be taken to eliminate the risk of work related injury or illness.

“Following this incident Coles has initiated a number of steps to eliminate re-occurrence, including a new plywood barrier to block off all access to the dangerous area and issuing a safety alert to staff,” Watson said.

“WorkCover is also pleased that this issue has also been addressed in the design of all new Coles stores.”

Aussie beef producers prepare for high demand following US mad cow disease outbreak

Indonesia has suspended some beef imports from the US following the detection of mad cow disease in California, and Australian producers are hoping to benefit from the incident with increased exports.

The Indonesian government confirmed it would be suspending US beef imports and two major South Korean retailers, Homeplus and Lotte Mart – immediately halted sales of the products as the news of the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) case broke.

Indonesia has suspended imports of boned meat and innards from US beef but boneless meat remains unaffected.

"We have decided to stop importing bone meal, innards and boned meat from the United States, but imports of boneless meat will continue," Indonesia’s deputy agriculture minister Rusman Heriawan said.

"The suspension starts today, but we don’t know how long it will remain in effect," he said, adding that shipments en route will not be affected.

Only a small amount of Indonesia’s beef imports come from the US, and most come from Australia and New Zealand.

Indonesia has suspended some beef imports from the US following the detection of mad cow disease in California, and Australian producers are hoping to benefit from the incident with increased exports.

However, the outbreak in 2006 was much larger than the latest one, which has only been detected in a single cow.

The US has proclaimed that the detection of the disease during routine inspections highlights an effective testing process, and no other animals have been found to have the disease.

But in the case of mad cow disease, many countries will exercise caution and halt imports until the storm passes.

Canada and Japan have said they will continue to import US beef and head of the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association Luke Bowen told The ABC that while Australian producers are sympathetic to the American predicament, they also hope the outbreak will benefit them again as it did previously.

US beef exports dropped by almost $3 million following the first outbreak of mad cow disease in 2003.

"Certainly when the cases in early 2000 broke out in Canada and the US and in Europe there was a large void in those Japanese and Korean markets, which Australia was able to fill, and the Americans have only just started to claw back some of those gains that Australia made through that period," Bowen said.

"And we’ve also seen a free-trade agreement signed between America and Korea which has strengthened their trading position as well, so clearly the Americans would have a lot to lose if they were to lose access to those markets."

BSE is highly contagious between animals, and is thought to have caused over 200 human deaths worldwide.

Image: Department of Primary Industries

Burger King to use roam free eggs and pigs by 2017

Burger King has announced it will only use animal products that come from free-range farms by 2017.

The global fast food giant announced the decision to only serve humanely bred and grown animal products in it’s US outlets within five years, but has not said whether the remainder of its 12 500 outlets throughout the world will also do the same.

Food Magazine has contacted Australia’s version of Burger King, Hungry Jack’s, to ask whether local outlets will be following in the footsteps of the American stores, but calls have not yet been returned.

Use of gestation crates a complicated issue

The company’s statement says it will only use accredited free range eggs and pork from suppliers who do not use gestation crates.

The gestation crates used to breed pigs have been getting a lot of attention in recent weeks, with welfare groups in Australia calling on producers to stop the use before the 2017 deadline set down voluntarily by the industry.

But a spokesperson from Australian Pork Limited told Food Magazine earlier last week that the use of the crates is for the best interests of the animals, to protect them from attacks due to increased hormone levels during the early stages of pregnancy and ensure proper nutrition.

The 200 centimetre long and 60 centimetre wide metal-barred crates are used to hold all sows for at least part of their 16-week pregnancy.

Almost 18 months Australian after pork producers agreed to ban the steel pens, a third of pregnant sows are no longer confined to the small stalls.

Recent Australian Pork Limited findings showed that 67 per cent of pregnant sows were still housed in the stalls one to four weeks after mating, while the remainder where not in the stalls at any stage of pregnancy.

Animals Australia’s Lyn White, believes that while it is ”pleasing” that some pig producers are no longer confining the pigs to the cages, the ban should be introduced sooner than first decided.

”The two-thirds of pigs who remain subjected to the cruelty of sow stalls won’t be alive to receive the benefits in 2017,” she said.

”It is clearly within the ability of the pig industry to alleviate their suffering now.”

But the Australian Pork Limited spokesperson told Food Magazine that many people don’t understand why the stalls are used and how it ensures the safety of the sows.

“As an agricultural group, we are looking at ways to please the consumers and also ensure the safety of the animals, because there are a lot of pictures out there that make it look bad, but in reality it is in the wellbeing of the animal and her piglets.

In response to questions about the Animals Australia’s calls to introduce the ban sooner than 2017, the spokesperson said it is not as simple as some people think.

“The problem we have is you can’t liken this move to walking into a room and turning off a light, it’s far more complicated that that, and we always have the welfare of animals at heart.

“And for producers to make changes within their own infrastructure, they need authority approval, from local councils and state regulatory services, and that takes time.

“Then need finances to undertake the changes.”

The spokesperson explained that the readily available horror stories and images of animals housed in the stalls during pregnancy are not painting a realistic picture.

“People are under the false impression that every pig is in a cage, but these sow stalls are only relevant to pregnant pigs, and they are placed in there for safety reasons,” the spokesperson told Food Magazine.

“What it means is that they are mated and within 5 day period are moved to groups.

“Depending on the operation, each producer will decide the size and location of the group and when they’re nearly ready to give birth they are moved to a farrowing stall, a birthing stall, which is a spring-loaded contraption to prevent her suffocating the piglets by lying on them.

“This alone saves about 1 million babies per year.”

The latest trend for retailers?

Coles has pledged to only stock fresh pork meat supplied by producers who have abandoned sow stalls by 2014 and experience would indicate Woolworths would quickly follow suit.

Burger King’s statement was made in a joint statement with the Humane Society.

"For more than a decade, Burger King Corp. has demonstrated a commitment to animal welfare,” Jonathan Fitzpatrick, chief brand and operations officer said.

"We continue to leverage our purchasing power to ensure the appropriate and proper treatment of animals by our vendors and suppliers.”

Animal rights group the Humane Society welcomed the decision by Burger King.

"These changes by Burger King Corp. will improve life for countless farm animals and encourage other companies to abide by animal welfare principles up and down their supply chain,” said Wayne Pacelle, head of the group.

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.

KFC chicken paralysed girl, court finds

A judge has ruled that fast food chain KFC is responsible for the brain damage of a young girl who was left paralysed by food poisoning.

In a judgement made on Saturday, Judge Stephen Rothman said Monika Samaan, who was seven years old when she got salmonella poisoning from chicken Twister wrap, was permanently disabled through negligence by KFC.

When she ate the food in October 2005, Samaan suffered salmonella encephalopathy, – a brain injury linked to food poisoning – and subsequently ended up with a blood infection and septic shock.

The girl suffered cognitive, motor and speech impairment, and went into a coma in hospital, which the family says is the direct result of the chicken chain’s actions.

They say several other family members also fell ill as a result of eating food from the Villawood KFC the same day.

The Supreme Court ruled in the family’s favour, after it concluded "a KFC Twister… consumed predominately by Monika and in lesser quantities by her family," made her ill.

According to Justice Rothman the chicken was contaminated "because of the failure of one or more employees of KFC" to follow preparation and handling rules.

He labelled the actions of these employees as "negligent,” but acknowledged they were not aware of how they could impact consumers.

"There is some evidence, which I accept, that some employees were unaware of the full consequences of a breakdown in the system that was to be implemented," Rothman said in his judgment.

"Nevertheless, the conduct of the employee was negligent and KFC, as the employer, is vicariously liable for the negligence."

Rothman referred to an assessment conducted at the premises prior to Samaan’s illness, which criticised the hygiene and food preparation standards, and testimonies by some staff members that they would throw food around as a joke, drop chicken on the ground and handle food without gloves on, in his findings.

"The evidence was consistent that the standards set by KFC were not met during the latter half of 2005," Rothman said.

"The contamination has occurred because of the failure of one or more employees of KFC to adhere to that procedure."

Compensation will be determined in a separate hearing, with Rothman saying the fallout from the food poisoning was “most rare.”

"She is now intellectually disabled, is unable to function independently, she needs total care and she will be unable to live a life filled with normal activities, relationships, milestones and achievements," he said.

"The plaintiff has been severely disabled at a very young age and as a result of her injuries, it is clear she will never enjoy the normal life that was expected of her prior to this catastrophic event."

KFC has confirmed it will appeal the decision.

"We believe the evidence showed KFC did not cause this tragedy and, after reviewing the judgment and seeking further advice from our lawyers, we have decided to appeal Justice Rothman’s decision," KFC Australia spokeswoman Sally Glover said.

"We feel deeply for Monika and the Samaan family however we also have a responsibility to defend KFC’s reputation as a provider of safe, high quality food."

Image: The Samaan family. Credits: Adam Ward, Herald Sun.

Higher taxes needed to curb binge-drinking: health group

We’re losing the war on alcoholism and binge drinking and changing the tax system to bump up prices on stronger varieties is the only way to start to improve it, according to health groups.

The Alcohol Policy Coalition (APC) wants the government to implement changes to the way alcohol is taxed, which it says should focus more on the strength of the alcohol, to alter binge drinking.

The group, which is made up of VicHealth, the Cancer Council and various drug and alcohol representative associations wants the price of casks of wine and cider to be bumped up, as many turn away from the price-inflated ‘alcopops’ towards the cheap boxed varieties.

Their proposed volumetric tax would essentially eradicate the wine equalisation tax, which is levied at 29 per cent of the wholesale wine price and instead calculate the price based on alcohol content.

"In a climate where we are seeing a sharp increase in consumption of cider and cheap wine, particularly by high-risk drinkers, we need to ensure that the price of alcohol is related to alcohol content," APC legal policy adviser Sondra Davoren said in a statement.

Most ciders are taxed under the same system as wine, which equates to about 7 cents less per glass then standard full strength draught beer, despite the similar alcohol content.

Alcopops are taxed at about 95 cents per standard drink, which is leading consumers to turn away from the premixed varieties, with a drop of about seven million drinks per week since 2008.

"Yet because of the anomaly in the tax system that allows traditional ciders to be taxed like wine, these products are increasingly filling the gap left by alcopops," Davoren said.

"Cider consumption increased 18 per cent in the year following the introduction of the alcopops tax and continues to rise."

The UK has a minimum floor price for alcohol which raises the price of high-stength, high-volume drinks which have been proven to be connected with alcohol-related crime and harm.

The APC is now calling on the Australian government to introduce a similar scheme.

China’s Coca-Cola Shanxi denies workers’ claim of contaminated products

Chinese authorities have denied there are any problems with it’s locally-manufactured Coca-Cola Shanxi Beverages, after an employee claimed mass chlorine contamination.

An anonymous employee told local media on Tuesday that routine pipe maintenance work had resulted in nine batches of products becoming contaminated with chlorine.

Many retailers and individual consumers stopped buying the products as a result of the alleged contamination, leading Coca-Cola Shanxi to test the products in question.

According to the Shanxi Province Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision, 121 058 cases of the potentially contaminated beverages were produced between 4 February to 8 Fenruary.

Of these, more then 76 000 had been sold by Tuesday and the remainder are still in the company’s possession.

Tests of the products resulted in the Food Quality Safety Supervision Testing Institute of Shanxi Province and the Shanxi Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Technology Centre declaring the products safe to consume, despite chlorine being identified in the samples.

They maintain that chlorine levels in the drinks are less than purified drinking water and therefore safe to drink.

“Drinking small amounts of chloric beverages won’t hurt people, but large amounts can,” Fu Yingwen, director of the inspection and quarantine centre said.

Safety In Action now on in Melbourne

Safety in Action, Victoria’s largest dedicated trade show for the safety and materials handling industry is on now.

Held at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, the event will cover the latest, most talked about topics in the industry.

Over 50 cutting-edge seminars on the industry’s hottest topics will be presented by industry leaders including Norton Rose, the National Safety Council of Australia, Noel Arnold & Associates, Safe Work Australia and many more.

See all the latest safety solutions in action on stage at the interactive live demonstration stage.

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Uncooked livers cause food poisoning outbreak

The food safety watchdog Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is warning people to take care when cooking chicken livers, following outbreaks of Campylobacter food poisoning.

The food poisoning is linked to dishes including pâté, where poultry liver has been undercooked.

While most people are aware of the importance of cooking chicken and turkey all the way through to prevent poisonings such as salmonella, FSANZ said some are unaware that livers should also be treated like poultry meat.

Lightly frying the surface is not enough, FSANZ says, livers need to be cooked all the way through to kill bacteria that may be present.

While cooked whole livers may be served slightly pink in the centre, they should never be bloody or look raw and should be cooked to a safe internal temperature -measured using a digital probe thermometer at 70C for at least two minutes.

To be even safer, paté can be prepared following recipes that require baking the whole dish in an oven or water bath – often at temperatures above 150C for up to two hours.

FSANZ said recent surveys of raw chicken meat in Australia found campylobacter in more than 85 per cent of samples tested.

"It’s therefore important that poultry livers are handled in a way to avoid cross-contamination and are cooked thoroughly before eating," FSANZ said.

Qantas snack supplier apologises over in-flight maggot contamination

The manufacturer of the Qantas snack which was contaminated with maggots has issued an apology for the “utterly regrettable” incident, which it says was restricted to that particular packet.

The Sydney Biscuit Company issued a media statement over the incident, explaining that the individual portion of Trail Mix which was found to have maggots inside was not part of a larger batch carrying the same problem.

“This product is supplied to our customers throughout Australia who then store it themselves or with third party suppliers until it is required for use or transport it for use within Australia or Internationally, The Sydney Biscuit Company’s chief executive, Harvey Crabtree said.

Crabtree explained that a root-cause analysis and investigation are in progress with the customer and a third party responsible for logistics and storage, as no contamination had been detected in the manufacture or packaging processes.

“Since this format of product first appeared on this particular service and route some four years ago we have distributed in excess of five million savoury snacks – a figure and products we are very proud of, many passengers send us in e-mails and stories relating to their travels and experiences,” Crabtree said.

“All products leave our site in A1 condition.

“We also retain samples from each and every batch of product produced and packed.

“Our retained samples relevant to the batch which left the business in November 2011 are showing no indications of integrity issues.

He said the company has HACCP and FSANZ accreditation and works to the high level of quality control and assurance set by the organisations.

Govt should support creation of more abattoirs: Greens

A proposed abattoir in Darwin which would crate almost 300 jobs has been backed by Australia’s largest cattle company and the Australian Greens party.

If the abattoir goes ahead, it will create jobs for the region, alleviate animal cruelty and reduce live exports, according to the Greens, who have called on the federal government to support the development.

“The Gillard government should get behind a new Darwin abattoir proposed by the Australian Agricultural Company which is estimated to create 270 jobs,” Greens Senator and animal welfare spokesperson Lee Rhiannon said.

“By growing the Australian meat processing industry we can create an alternative to live exports as well as thousands of jobs.

The horrible treatment of animals exported live to Indonesia, exposed on the ABC’s Four Corners program, sparked national outcry and led to Gillard banning the practise until improvements could be made.

The Greens want live export banned, believing that sending the animals overseas is damaging to the local industry.

“Australian Bureau of Statistics data tracks the decline in the number of meat processing jobs in Australia, from between 40,000 to 48,000 workers in the 1970s to around 32,000 workers in 2009,” Rhiannon said.

“There were 475 abattoirs in Australia at the end of the 1970s, dropping to 315 abattoirs by 1995/96.

“The Greens will continue our campaign to ban live animal exports which would not only end the cruel suffering of animals, but see abattoirs re-opened, especially in northern Australia.

In April a departmental study found that the Western Australian economy would be significantly impacted if the state stopped live export of sheep.

The study by the Department of Agriculture and Food developed a sheep value supply chain model based on the three major sectors of the state: production, processing/wholesale and retailing/export.

The business earnings of almost 4200 businesses depend heavily on live exports to maintain their earning total of almost $160 million.

Do you support more local abattoirs and less live export?

Image: The ABC

John West tinned tuna variety recalled after glass fragments found in product

A line of John West tinned tuna sold in Australian supermarkets, after glass fragments were found in the product.

The 95 gram tins of John West Tuna Tempters Sweet Seeded Mustard with the batch code ‘4ER12’ are sold in Woolworths, Coles, IGA, Franklins and other independent supermarkets.

The product, produced by Victorian-based Simplot Australia, a subsidiary of American food company Simplot, can be returned to the point of purchase for a full refund.

It is not clear at this stage how the glass fragments ended up in the tuna tins.

Driver, cattle die in truck crash

It’s been a horror 24 hours for animal transporters, with a driver and dozens of cattle dead following a crash in country New South Wales and pig carcasses spread across a Sydney highway causing traffic delays in two separate incidents.

Yesterday afternoon a B-double truck transporting more than 60 cattle crashed on the Oxley Highway near Tamworth, in the state’s New England Region.

According to local police, the vehicle rolled down an embankment, killing a number of animals and the driver, after he failed to negotiate a right-hand bend near Tangaratta Bridge.

In a separate incident, a number of pig carcasses were spread across the M7 westlink motorway in Sydney when two heavy vehicles collided about 2am this morning.

The accident caused the truck carrying the pig carcasses to roll, littering the road with the carcasses and causing delays through peak-hour this morning.

All north –bound lanes are closed and traffic wass being diverted from the M7 on to Joadia Road, to Hoxton Park Road and the ironically named Cowpasture Road.

One driver was taken to Liverpool Hospital with minor injuries.

Is food safety getting worse?

With the risk of food contamination increasing, producers, manufacturers, retailers, regulators and the consuming public all continually raise the bar for food safety. The variety of potential contaminants that must be detected across the food supply chain complicates screening procedures.

This is because no single device or technology can screen for all types. Even when an incident occurs, it’s difficult to identify the cause and its source rapidly because of the limited capability of available technology for sample preparation, identification and detection, and tracking and tracing.

There are many types of biological, chemical and physical sources of contamination. New sources of contamination constantly arise from recycling efforts, product reformulation, product counterfeiting, and other malicious and non-malicious sources.

However, the industry is putting improved technology and practices into place and new technology is evolving rapidly to help further protect the consuming public. These include continuous quality verification; state-of-the-art, analytics-based risk assessment; and more timely and granular track and trace systems.

Improving food and beverage product quality and safety goes hand in hand with efforts to lower manufacturing and supply chain cost while reducing business risk.

Global sourcing and rapid distribution have increased the risk of a large-scale incident. The Red Sudan incident is a perfect example.

Sudan 1, a banned carcinogenic red food dye, was used to make red chili powder. This single ingredient created a major global incident before authorities discovered it had entered the global food supply chain, prompting dozens of product recalls.

Over 600 food products were recalled. These included curry sauce, Worcester sauce, pesto sauce, ready to eat meals, soups, sausage, pizza and Dijon mustard mayonnaise from major food companies such as Unilever, Heinz, McDonalds, Tesco and Sainsbury.

Product reformulation

New sources of contamination continue to be discovered. These are due to product reformulation, material recycling, and discovery that some ingredients are not as safe as once thought. Many companies are reformulating their food products with ingredients that help lower costs or improve the health benefits.

However, ingredient changes can also change the water activity of the product and make it more susceptible to spoilage and bacterial growth. Just this year, Nestle announced that it is collaborating with paper manufacturers to evaluate different approaches for developing new grades of recycled paper in light of concerns about oil leaking into foods from packaging material made from recycled newspaper.

Statistics on the number of incidents of food borne illnesses or the number of incidents caused by the five major pathogens do not provide evidence of a decline in incidents. Overall, the number of incidents and their severity seem to be relatively constant year to year.

In the US, this translates into 76 million gastrointestinal illnesses, 325,000 hospitalisations, 5000 deaths, and billions of dollars in costs. This is the result of poor producing and manufacturing operations as well as poor food safety practices on the part of the consumer.

However, a single, highly publicised incident has the potential to devastate brand value or even destroy a company. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges for the industry is to identify and deploy new technologies that can prevent contaminated product from reaching the consumer more effectively as well as technology that can help minimise the impact of incidents that do occur.

Accurate tracking

Companies must put technology and enforced workflow procedures in place across the manufacturing supply chain and out to the customer. This includes constant risk assessment. Continuous quality verification technology should be deployed wherever possible.

More granular and accurate tracking and tracing will also be required. Tracking and tracing using pa-per records or extensive manual entry into electronic records is no longer sufficient.

Packaging and bottling operations typically lack sufficient continuous quality verification. While most packaging line machinery is highly automated, most labelling and inspection operations remain manual or semi-manual, open-loop systems.

As a result, allergen mislabelling and non-readable date and bar codes still occur all too often. Product inspection is often limited and relies on older, less effective technology to detect non-metal impurities. Continuous quality verification systems in packaging operations are be-coming a business and regulatory requirement.

Optical character recognition (OCR) systems ensure that information such as date and lot codes are accurate and readable and provide 100 percent in-line inspection. Laser measurement-sensor technology is at the heart of other packaging line, "continuous quality verification" solutions.

These verify proper package positioning and detect jams online, and can detect other rejects, such as faulty carton seals and inadequate cap closures. New, continuous on-line X-ray systems can detect many foreign objects such as most metal, glass, plastic, bone and rock.

Packaging operations

Other technology providers now offer complete process equipment plat-forms for high-speed packaging operations. These integrate robotics, motion control, and vision technology for handling food products such as meat and poultry.

The industry must constantly raise the bar for food safety.Such platforms eliminate human handling of product to eliminate a source of product contamination. Inspection by automated vision technology also eliminates error-prone human inspection.

Food manufacturers are deploying new software solutions to address product quality and safety. These include quality management systems, production management systems, model predictive control, and electronic track and trace systems.

Production management software solutions have evolved to include many functions such as workflow design and enforcement; KPI dashboards for analysing quality, productivity, and asset utilisation; and several levels of data analytics that help identify problem areas and assess potential product quality and safety risks.

Some now include more sophisticated model- based analysis and control. In fact, most suppliers now offer some form of model predictive control (MPC) in their production management software suites.

Quality, risk, and compliance management systems (QMS) have evolved over time to address the growing needs of the regulated manufacturing industries. These systems help ensure product quality and safety as well as compliance with government regulations and industry standards, while minimising the risk to a manufacturing enterprise associated with off-quality product or noncompliance with government regulations.

Mission-specific functionality is included for manufacturing, engineering, quality, customer service, purchasing, and corporate management. Typically QMS software include modules to manage quality, documents, change, internal and external audits, training, BOMs, supplier quality, compliance and submissions, customer complaints, incidents, risk, nonconformance and deviation, corrective and preventive action (CAPA), and environmental health and safety (EH&S) compliance.

Business and regulatory requirements drive a global effort to improve product genealogy tracking and tracing from the "farm to the fork." It impacts companies that produce, manufacture, process, pack, hold, transport, distribute, and receive food products for human or animal consumption.

While most regulations require "one up and one down" record keeping, good business due diligence requires tracking and tracing from the source of an ingredient or product to the purchase by the retail customer. This includes information on companies as well as the products.

As real-time tracking and tracing systems evolve, they should be designed with all possible business benefits in mind. A tracking and tracing system should be integrated into all business activities including balancing incoming and outgoing supply chains, product recall, theft, anti-counterfeiting, asset management and tracking, and other business functions.

Production management systems

The new generation of quality management systems enables quality management tracking and tracing of suppliers and other partners in the supply chain. Production management systems provide significant tracking and tracing within manufacturing prior to packaging operations.

This includes such functions as recipe management, batch lot tracking, and in-process genealogy.
Driven by the increased need for product serialisation, packaging operations management systems are improving in functionality. However, most systems lack the full level of required functionality.

ARC believes packaging floor product identification and traceability systems must provide specific functionality to help reduce or eliminate inaccurate data, minimise the financial risk and scope of a potential product recall, and simplify current and future regulatory compliance.

While government regulations and the industry itself are doing more to ensure food safety, with the constantly changing sources of potential contamination the risk of a major incident continues to increase. In response, the industry must constantly raise the bar for food safety by continuing to implement best practices and deploying the latest technology.

[John Blanchard is Principal Analyst, ARC Advisory Group.]

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