Food safety and the laws of attraction

New magnetic separation technology is set to save food and dairy manufacturers from detrimental product recalls.

Braden Goddin (pictured below), Product Manager for Aurora Process Solutions, has the unpleasant task of sitting down with food producers and talking about product recalls.

“It’s a difficult topic to bring up,” he said. “A recall is one of the worst things that can happen to a food producer. There is the tangible cost of actually pulling the food off the shelves and disposing of it, and the intangible cost to a brand and its reputation in the marketplace.”

Sadly, product recalls are becoming if not common, at least regularly covered in the media, as companies find themselves in terrible situations. At best, a food recall costs a firm thousands of dollars– at worst, the recall can affect the health of consumers, leading to a public outcry against a brand.

Goddin is having these conversations, however, because he’s part of a team dedicated to helping companies avoid food recalls. His company is working to popularise magnetic separation in the Australasian food processing industry, specifically among powdered milk products. It’s what he called a “very cost effective insurance” for companies that risk contamination from metallic foreign objects.

“Keeping foreign matter out of your product it massive, it’s something you want to avoid at all costs. Just think about a food processing factory; say you’re making an infant formula. It’s a complex process. You might be pushing out tonnes of product an hour, moving through thousands of metal parts,” said Goddin. “Then you have the end consumer, the parent, literally sifting through the formula one tablespoon at a time. Then they find a black particle in the formula and their outraged reaction is understandable.”

In addition to risks to a producer’s reputation, and consumers’ health, Goddin said food producers must consider the risks to their processing equipment.

“Some products need to be ground, milled, minced, and mixed. This machinery operates at high speeds and tolerances and can become extremely dangerous if metal contamination is processed. This can escalate the impact of foreign matter,” explained Goddin. “In some situations there is the risk of explosion from sparks ignited from pieces of metal that are not supposed to be there. It’s not just about protecting the brand, but also about protecting your people, plant and equipment.”

Aurora 0020

He adds that by ensuring cleaner product is passing through a machine, manufacturers should be able to reduce the maintenance that’s needed on the equipment.

The use of magnets in food processing on its own is nothing new. Goddin explained, however the performance expectation of magnetic separators is changing considerably. Micro particles of foreign matter that used to be seen as acceptable are now targeted with consumers and regulators lifting the bar in terms of quality expectation.

Aurora stands out from its competitors as having developed its magnets hand in hand with actual food processors, working with major food & dairy manufacturers. The magnets themselves are rare earth magnets, meaning they require no power or consumable to operate. Traditionally, companies have just worked to make these magnets as strong as possible. What Aurora has done is work closely with its clients to develop a magnet that fits manufacturers’ needs, in terms of hygiene, design, product flow, and capacity requirements.

“We realised pretty early on that we had to design a range of magnets ourselves, utilising our global connections,” said Goddin. “We worked directly with the people on the floor, the people who were working day in, day out in these factories right through to laboratory technicians to come up with something that would revolutionise magnets from both a technical and operational perspective.”   

The result of that work is the Force10 range of magnets (pictured top), one of the industries only HACCP-endorsed magnetic separation systems. Although it works across most processing operations, Aurora has focused on the needs of the food and dairy industries.

Braden notes that processors that are already looking at their foreign matter, through the use of metal detection and X-ray technology, will still need to consider integrating the use of magnets, as they pick up critical brackets of foreign matter that are not captured by other means and also provide protection right through the process from intakes to packing.

“The magnets work hand in hand with these systems. Metal detection, X-ray, filtration and sifting technology have limitations, depending on particle size, orientation, product and process characteristics, and so on,” he said.

By implementing these systems, Godin said processors can rest easier at night, knowing that the products that travel out of the factory, onto retail shelves, then into a consumer’s pantry are clean.

“Foreign matter is a critical and escalating issue right now, it’s at the front of the market’s mind,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to add value to your brand.”

Qld meat processor shut down due to food safety concerns

A newly-opened Queensland meat processor has been forced to halt operations after Safe Food Queensland placed a suspension on activity.

Barco Queensland, owned by pet food manufacturer Millennium Pet Foods, opened its inactive game meat abbatoir in Charleville this March.

Safe Food Queensland has not yet listed the reason for the Charleville processor’s suspension, and has declined to clarify at this point.

Barco Queensland general manager Daniel McGettigan was told of the plant’s suspension, but has not yet received a suspension notice of the conflict, and is not aware of the reason for the suspension.

“[Operations have] come to a screaming halt for ourselves, for the shooters and for the workers as well,” he told the ABC.

If the suspension is not lifted, the company will consider leasing another abbatoir or expanding its existing plant in Helensvale to handle all the processing, according to McGettigan.

Despite the plant’s expansion, it has been doing well otherwise, processing 1500 carcasses per week. McGettigan has also reported that IGA supermarkets are handling more product than was initially expected, and supermarket chains have been making repeat purchases.

The plant employed 25 staff, and sourced product from around 30 shooters.

Lupin added to mandatory allergen labelling list

Lupin has been added to the list of nine allergens that must be declared on food labels, following consideration by ministers responsible for food regulation. Food businesses have 12 months from 25 May 2017 to meet the requirements.

FSANZ CEO Mark Booth said lupin (which like soy and peanut has the potential to be an allergen) has been recognised as a significant allergen in the European Union food regulations since 2007.

“Historically, most of the Australian sweet lupin crop has been used for animal feed or exported. However, because of its high protein and fibre content, lupin is increasingly being used in food for people.  Due to the increase in use in food and some cases of allergic response, FSANZ decided lupin should be one of the allergens requiring mandatory declaration,” said Booth.

“Australia and New Zealand have among the highest prevalence of allergic disorders in the developed world so it’s critical that food businesses get their allergen labelling right.

Booth added that some foods and food ingredients or their components can cause severe allergic reactions including anaphylaxis. This is why there are mandatory allergen labelling requirements in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.

“The ten foods/ingredients that must be declared are peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, sesame seeds, fish and shellfish, soy, wheat and now lupin. These ingredients must be declared on the food label whenever they are present as ingredients or as components of food additives or processing aids,” he said.

Booth said if the food is not in a package or is not required to have a label (for example, food prepared at and sold from a takeaway shop), allergen information must either be displayed in connection with the food or provided to the purchaser if requested.

“If you run a food business you are responsible for understanding and meeting mandatory allergen labelling requirements,” Booth said.

“In addition to protecting public health and safety, awareness can save time and money for food businesses by avoiding food recalls of their products. Many food recalls occur because the food business hasn’t declared an allergen that must be on the label. Undeclared allergens were responsible for 33 recalls in 2016. Food businesses can easily avoid the costly and lengthy process of a recall by staying on top of their responsibilities regarding allergen labelling requirements.”

 

The connection between junk food packaging and addiction

Food is important for our survival, which is why all living beings have developed an urge for high energy foods, like those high in sugar and fat. Historically, this hadn’t been an issue, as energy dense foods weren’t always as available as they are today.

But in modern societies, we not only have easy access to cheap, high-energy food, we also have marketing companies pushing them at us. Food packaging plays a big part in triggering brain processes that influence our food choices – similar brain processes that get us stuck on addictive behaviours.

How our brain works in addiction

Some people who eat too much high-calorie food show similar behavioural patterns to those with addictions. An important behavioural component of addiction is a longing to experience the drug again and again, while in many cases, regretting that behaviour. This distinction between wanting something but not necessarily liking it is shown in many studies.

In the 1950s, two Canadian physiologists ran experiments with electrodes implanted in specific brain regions of rats. The rats were then given the opportunity to stimulate these brain regions, later termed “reward centres”, by pressing a button. Once they started pressing the stimulation button, they stopped doing anything else, which was the first hint of a strong behavioural reinforcing mechanism.

Since then, researchers have shown that this reward centre of the brain – termed the “ventral striatum” – is also involved in substance addiction, such as to heroin or cocaine. Just showing people drug-related pictures led to a strong activity in the parts of the brain related to craving for the drugs.

How our brain responds to junk foods

With methods like functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which allows us to measure brain activity in healthy volunteers, researchers have started to investigate processes underlying how we eat and view foods.

Such studies robustly show that images of high caloric foods, like chocolate bars or cakes, lead to a stronger activity in the reward areas of the brain, in contrast to apples or salads.

Foods like cakes and burgers lead to stronger activity in our brain’s reward areas in contrast to apples or salads.
www.shutterstock.com

Longitudinal studies, which follow people over a period of time, have shown that the stronger the reaction in the brain’s reward areas when confronted with these foods, the more weight people will gain over the next year.

These insights have made scientists think about how they could intervene to make people less reactive to foods high in calories. One important mechanism, which was researched by a team in California, is that of self-control.

Volunteers were able to regulate the reward-related brain activity towards junk food. While in an MRI machine, they were instructed to focus on health attributes while making choices for healthier food options. When doing so, another region of the brain strongly involved in self-control (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) was more active and regulated the spontaneous rewarding brain activity.

The main problem, though, is that people are not capable of applying self-control over longer periods.

A part of the brain’s prefrontal cortex is strongly involved in self-control.
CurtisCripe/flickr, CC BY

The impact of marketing

We may think our eating decisions are mainly driven by rational factors such as weighing up the different attributes of products – for example, prices and content. But research shows we are strongly influenced by environmental factors that nudge us into making different decisions.

Designs of packages, brands or claims on food products also influence how we value and consume them. These influences are of course extensively used by companies to affect consumers’ choices.

Companies make use of bright colours, and well-known characters from movies or other celebrities to distinguish their products from others. These visual properties act as signals that influence the way we value products and make people more likely to be attracted to certain items over others.

Some studies in children show food-directed commercials influence the amount of calories they consume, with this effect especially pronounced in overweight children.

Research has begun to reveal why we are compelled to eat what we eat. It shows that food packaging plays a big part in influence choices.
from www.shutterstock.com

But the fact contextual factors play a strong role in the perception of foods can also be used to help consumers in their choices.

We conducted a study in school children where we presented the same cereals in different packages. One of these was especially designed to be more appealing to children – we created cartoon characters and placed them on the package.

The same cereal not only tasted better when it was in the more appealing package, but children were also willing to make more effort to receive it (by more strongly pressing on a specially designed hand lever).

This influence of marketing on the actual taste experience has also been referred to as the marketing placebo effect. Expectations consumers may have about a known brand or a nice design can lead to actual differences in taste and consumption patterns, probably by acting on the human reward circuitry and raising the subjective pleasure of the taste experience.

Bernd Weber, Professor, Centre for Economics and Neuroscience, University of Bonn

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

Fonterra introduces instantly traceable baby formula info

According to a story in stuff.co.nz, Fonterra has introduced new traceability technology allowing shoppers to instantly check the authenticity of infant formula products while they are still on the shelfs.

The Quick Read (QR) codes have been initially put on the co-operative’s infant formula brand Anmum in New Zealand stores, said the story.

Each baby formula can has a unique QR code when scanned connects the buyer to a webpage with information and a batch number verifying that it is authentic.

Consumers can also scan cans at any stage after they have bought it to get up to date information about the product.

By the end of this year, Fonterra says it will have 90 per cent of its global plants with traceability data electronically connected, with the remaining 10 per cent to be completed by 2019.

Food for thought? Diet helps explain unique human brainpower

It’s the mystery of all mysteries of science. Why is it that humans are so unusual compared to all other life? The key to solving this riddle lies in explaining the evolution of our large brains and exceptional intelligence. The Conversation

For as long as humanity has been contemplating our existence we must surely have been struck by the fact that we are the only species capable of doing so.

I don’t believe it’s an exaggeration to say that the evolutionary arrival of humankind – some 200,000 years ago – was a decisive moment in the long history of the universe. After 14 billion years in the making, and in the blink of an eye of cosmological time, human intelligence arrived and gave the universe the ability to comprehend itself.

Maybe this all seems a little too anthropocentric for your taste? Smacks of literary indulgence on my behalf? Perhaps. But the simple matter is that we can’t avoid the fact of human uniqueness, and explaining it is tied to understanding the evolution of our extraordinary brainpower.

The eighteenth century British anatomist and creationist Richard Owen, one of Charles Darwin’s foremost foes, thought humans were so unusual that we ought to be classified in our own sub-class – the ‘Archenecephala’ as he dubbed it – on account of our highly advanced brain.

It rather conveniently stood us apart from the apes, confirming his view of the specialness of humankind.

By the standards of today’s biological classifications this would place us in a position in the tree of life above all of the orders of mammals, making us about as exceptional as the monotremes are to the placentals.

But with the facts of our evolution now well and truly established we have a much better understanding our place in nature, as members of the primate order, and particularly as African Great Apes.

To really understand how the human brain emerged we must first recognise that we share big brains with other primates. It’s our evolutionary inheritance, as primates are among the brainiest of all mammals; when taken kilo for kilo against body size. And apes are especially well endowed in the brains department.

Why? Well, this has been a major puzzle for anthropologists for decades, and the most widely accepted explanation has been the cognitive demands placed on us by living in large social groups; the so-called ‘social brain hypothesis’ or ‘Dunbar’s Number’.

The main alternative has been that braininess evolved in response to the demands of sex. Polygynandrous species – where males and females have multiple partners in a given breeding season – possess larger brains than those using other systems of mating, such as a harem or monogamy.

Now a new study by Alex DeCasien and colleagues published in Nature Ecology and Evolution has turned the debate completely on its head. They’ve found that the kind of diet a primate species consumes offers the best explanation for its brain size.

While this idea is not an entirely new one, their work provides strong validation for the diet-brain connection.

When it comes to apes it turns out that fruit eating – the dietary niche present in most living apes and the one our ancient ape ancestors indulged in – is so cognitively demanding that it led to a big evolutionary leap in intelligence when it began.

How come? Well, challenging diets require individuals to seek out or capture food; they have to judge whether it’s ready to be eaten or not; and they may even need to extract it, peel it, or process it in some way before it can be ingested.

Sound familiar? It should. Humans have the most specialised and challenging diets of all primates; and I have in mind here hunters and gatherers not urban foodies.

The human dietary niche is exceptionally broad and involves behaviours aimed at not only obtaining food but also making it more palatable and digestible; activities like extraction, digging, hunting, fishing, drying, grinding, cooking, combining other foods to add flavor, or even adding minerals to season or make food safe to eat.

What other species would so gleefully jiggle their jaws on the flames of a Jalapeno or lap up the tongue curling delights of a lemon?

What’s more, our large fruit eating ape brains got even bigger late in human evolution because our diets became ever more challenging to obtain and prepare, especially as a result of our ancestor’s penchant for eating meat.

Hunter-gatherers typically have a diet comprising between 30% and 80% vertebrate meat, while for chimpanzees it’s only around 2%. Instead, chimps get 60% of their diet from fruit, but hunter-gatherers typically obtain only 5% or 6 % (on the odd occasion a lot more) of their nutrition from fruit.

Humans rarely eat raw meat though, and we cook many of our vegetables as well, so even after expending huge efforts to collect it we still have to process much of our food in drawn out ways.

All of this throws up a paradox for us. Why is it that our closest and now extinct relatives, such as the Neanderthals, who were capable of complex behaviours like hunting, cooking and perhaps even cultural activities like art, lacked the smarts to ponder the ultimate questions of life?

Why is it us, and not them, that are capable of pondering and explaining the existence of life and the universe, including human life itself? There is clearly something very unique about human intelligence and a lot more to this evolutionary tale than mere food for thought.

Darren Curnoe, Chief Investigator, ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, and Director, Palaeontology, Geobiology and Earth Archives Research Centre, UNSW

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

New study to determine supply chain effects on lamb

A new study is underway to determine the effects of long-haul shipping on Australia’s export lamb.

Murdoch University PhD candidate Maddison Corlett aims to determine whether the time spent in transit from Australia to the US changes the quality of chilled lamb cuts. This is in response to reports from American consumers that Australian lamb has a “gamey” flavour.

While these reports could simply be due to Americans’ preference for beef, Corlett believes that the ageing that occurs during long-haul shipping could also be responsible.

Corlett’s project will involve sending lamb aged at five days, 21 days and 45 days to Texas Tech University to be tested. The university will cook the meat and serve it to consumers, asking for their feedback.

WA food stocks hit after roads damaged by flooding

Agriculture and food minister Alannah MacTiernan has called for road repairs in Western Australia after the region was hit by flooding.

She has identified roads in Ravensthorpe, 540km south-east of Perth, as a priority after the collapse of the South Coast Highway has caused stock losses and damage to fences and top soil.

According to a report in The West Australian, MacTiernan said farmers had lost between 5 and 7 per cent of their arable land after the floods.

“It was important to see that damage that had occurred,” she said. “It’s pretty severe.”

Funding is expected to be reimbursed to primary producers which has up to $25,000 after the council collates more data of the damage caused. 

“The Shire wants early sign-off on the ability to use day labour,” MacTiernan continue.

“It was made very clear that the Shire needs to get moving on the roads. We understand time is of the essence, we certainly don’t want to prevent planting season.

“Until those roads are repaired, we can’t get the gear in.”

Foodpro returns to Sydney for 50th year

Australasia’s iconic food manufacturing event, foodpro, returns for its 50th year in 2017 to the new international Convention Centre at Sydney’s Darling Harbour from 16 – 19 July.

Food manufacturing makes up 23% of Australia’s annual exports; the food and agribusiness industry produced $53.9 billion of value added in 2014-15 alone.

Since it first ran in 1967, foodpro has played an important role in the growth of the food processing, manufacturing and packaging industries and has contributed to the development and significance the industry has to Australia.

The event showcases products and innovations relevant to all aspects of the food manufacturing industry including: meat and seafood, value-add processing, beverages, dairy, fresh food and shelf foods.

It is considered to be a driving force behind the Australian food processing industry with global leaders presenting their latest technology, services and ideas.

With industry added value increasing annually for the past five years, foodpro 2017 is sure to be a popular event on the calendar and will feature four key precincts: food processing technology, food packaging, plant equipment and food technology.

Access to new trends will be priority as well as insight into key issues facing the industry such as traceability, food safety and sustainability.

Australia has a global reputation for high safety and quality standards; in order for food manufacturers to stay up to date they must be compliant and competitive, adapting to new technology and staying ahead of developments within the industry.

With education a key focus for the show, foodpro will provide answers and expertise with seminars covering a range of topics such as trends, insights and case studies geared to the Australian market. Visitors will have the opportunity to hear from industry experts, engage in topical discussions and learn from peers.

Running in conjunction with foodpro 2017 will be the annual AIFST (Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology) Convention.

Over 400 delegates are expected to attend the Convention’s 50th year to hear about topics such as the future nutritional needs, technology driving innovation, regulations related to imports as well as a roundtable discussing financing innovation and growth in the food industry.

 For more information, see: https://www.foodproexh.com/

‘Made in Australia’ label ranked #14 globally

 

A study by statistics firm Statista researched 43,000 consumers from 49 different countries to determine the world’s most respected ‘Made in’ labels. According to the study, Australia ranks 14th.

Germany ranked first, receiving 100 index points, closely followed by Switzerland with 98 index points.

Other nations in the top five include the EU as a whole, the UK and Sweden.

Australia’s 14th place ranking puts the nation just above New Zealand (ranked 15th), and below the Netherlands (ranked 13th).

At the end of the spectrum were China on 28 index points and Iran on 27 index points. Statista noted the irony of the fact that Germany scored the top rank, considering that the

‘Made in’ label was introduced by Britain at the end of the 19thcentury to protect its economy from “cheap, low quality and sometimes counterfeit” imports from Germany.

Patties CEO says more takeovers on the table

Australia’s ready-meal sector will surpass $1 billion in the near future and a shift towards healthier eating is playing a major part, it has been claimed.

Paul Hitchcock, CEO of Patties Foods, has said the company is seeking new acquisitions with projections showing the huge growth in the market. 

Having recently acquired Australian Wholefoods, he also believes the sector is now providing far more than TV dinners” and told the AFR it will grow by more than 10 per cent annually.

“The category is still relatively new,” Hitchcock told the AFR. “It’s trending toward $1 billion but we’re not there yet.

The chilled ready meals category grew by 13 per cent in the past year for the retailer “as customers continue to look for convenient and affordable meal solutions”, according to a Woolworths spokesman.

“Busy lifestyles mean consumers are attracted to convenience meals by their relatively low cost, ease of use and variety,” a spokesman for Coles added.

Patties Foods was acquired by the provate equity firm Pacific Equity Partners for $231 million last year.

Patties Foods buys up Australian Wholefoods

According to the AFR, Patties Foods has swallowed up South Australia’s Australian Wholefoods.

In what is looking very much like a pattern, Pacific Equity Partners (PEP), which bought out Patties Food in 2016 and then followed that up by buying Leader Foods, has now devoured Australian Wholefoods, thereby allowing it to push into additional categories of the food services sector.

Australian Wholefoods employs about 130 people and its says it produces more than 100,000 chilled ready meals every week.

The company has introduced a number of new product lines like Clever Cooks, a fresh-food brand free from artificial colours or preservatives.

The latest acquisition has triggered speculation that PEP will sell the combined food business it to Asian buyers, which, the AFR noted, have shown a “keen appetite for Australian food manufacturing assets in the last few years.”

Bellamy’s investors in class action

A shareholder class action against troubled infant formula supplier Bellamy’s has been filed in Victoria to give investors try try and claw back some of their losses.

Law firm Maurice Blackburn lodged the action in the Federal Court in Melbourne on Tuesday on behalf of aggrieved investors who bought shares between April 14 and December 9 last year.
It will be a new challenge for Bellamy’s brand new chairman, Rodd Peters, who was appointed after most of the board resigned or were dumped in a recent shareholder backlash.
The Tasmanian company has suffered a massive plunge in share price and flagged a significant drop in sales in China, and twice downgraded its full-year earnings forecast.

The rebel shareholders who dumped the board at a fiery meeting on February 28 said a turnaround would be complex.
But they said they had a plan to address problems related to product distribution and pricing in China.
Maurice Blackburn principal Ben Slade said the class action was a chance for investors to seek some justice.
“We’ve put together a comprehensive set of pleadings that we’ve now filed with the court, and we are confident that will give aggrieved shareholders the best chance possible of achieving financial redress for some of their losses,” he said in a statement.

Mechatronic drive awarded HACCP certification

 Understanding the extremely high standards that Australia’s food and beverage manufacturers work towards to ensure that consumers receive the highest quality products, SEW-EURODRIVE has announced the recent Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) certification of its mechatronic drive system MOVIGEAR type B, variant for wet areas.

Traditional machine components are not only difficult to clean thoroughly; they also generally require production areas to shut down – at least in part – for cleaning activities to take place. This procedure places strain on production timeframes, contributing to reduced product throughput affecting the overall profitability.

Machine components mounted in production or processing areas are often exposed to harsh cleaning chemicals. The shape of the component, its material composition and the method of substrate protection all play a large role in the cleaning efforts, likelihood of becoming a source of contamination and product longevity.

Designed specifically for the food and beverage industry MOVIGEAR for wet areas has a number of advantages over traditional drive solutions. Up to three core products can be assembled into a “self-draining” and compact housing: gear unit, motor and drive electronics (optional).

Combining the technical and practical advantages of all three drive components leads to an increase in the performance, efficiency and reliability. The MOVIGEAR product range can be easily integrated into most materials handling applications such as conveyor systems.

The smooth housing of the MOVIGEAR for wet areas is finished with a ‘HP200’ treatment which is burned-in-to the surface during the application process. Highly resistant to rigorous cleaning regimes, including chemical and high pressure wash down, the integrity of the surface finish eliminates the possibility of “paint-lift-off” often associated with traditional surface coatings.

The inherent anti-stick properties contribute to a reduction of debris build-up resulting in reduced cleaning efforts and system downtime. Standard inclusion of stainless steel shafts, fasteners and auxiliary fittings further enhances the MOVIGEAR for wet areas anticorrosive properties.

The totally enclosed non-ventilated mechatronic drive system is designed according to the principle of convection cooling, eliminating the need of a motor fan. Motor-fan noise spread of germs and bacteria due to air swirls are a thing of the past with the MOVIGEAR product range.

Compliant with IE4 (Super Premium Efficiency) standards, a major benefit of the MOVIGEAR is the impressive energy savings potential.

 

 

Nanoparticles could be the future of agriculture

MICROSCOPIC particles that have always been considered a pollutant are being studied for a range of agricultural uses.

South Australian researchers are working on a number of novel uses for engineered nanoparticles including efficient fertilisers, agricultural ‘amendments’ and a unique way to clean-up contaminated land.

Engineered nanoparticles are currently used in a range of industrial materials, such as ceramics and advanced polymers, and are also commonly used in the production of household materials, personal care products and clothing.

These particles are considered a pollutant risk if they are able to accumulate in the environment.

With a maximum diameter of just 100 nanometres, it is easy for the particles to be widely dispersed across soil and accumulated by plants.

As a result, nanoparticles have been considered a pollutant and eco-toxicological risk to both plants and wildlife.

But researchers at the University of South Australia have found that the very same nanoparticles could also prove beneficial to the growth of plants.

A glasshouse trial conducted by Dr Elliott Duncan, Dr Gary Owens and Nazanin Nikoo Jamal involved exposing rice plants to titanioum and cerium nanoparticles.

Dr Elliott said that instead of proving toxic to the plants, the nanoparticles aided the growth of the rice plants.

Current laboratory tests have focused on rice plants, but Dr Duncan said the same particles could also be used to benefit other grain crops and horticultural species, with tests expected to begin on wheat later this year.

“There’s a lot of concern in terms of whether engineered nanoparticles are toxic, whether they’re accumulated by plants and what the end effect is for humans and the environment,” he said.

“But we found these particles may actually provide some benefits for the plants, and, if we could harness those, this could be a big deal for the agriculture industry.”

The experiment demonstrated that some nanoparticles had the potential to be used as an agricultural supplement, although Dr Duncan said it was still unclear how exactly these particles helped the growth of plants.

“The mechanisms behind it and predicting whether it is going to occur and how best to harness it is still unknown,” he said.

His team will continue with glasshouse experiments to test the safety and effect of the nanoparticles.

Dr Duncan said there was also the potential for specially designed nanoparticles to be used as a way to delivery fertiliser more efficiently.

“With current fertilisers, a lot of the nutrient isn’t available to the plants – essentially the plant can only use 30 to 50 per cent, so up to 70 per cent of the fertiliser expense is just wasted,” he said,

“The idea would be that if we can improve that, you can get away with applying a lot less, which then has benefits for the economics of the farm and the environment.

“This stems from the fact that the nanoparticles are small, which means they’re quite mobile in the environment so they should be able to interact with plants a lot better than more traditional bulk fertilisers.”

The size of nanoparticles also means they possess unique properties such as a high surface-area to volume ratio, which could also make them effective for cleaning up contaminated land.

Dr Duncan is also researching the effectiveness of nanoparticles in binding to toxic chemicals such as lead and arsenic.

“To remediate a site is often quite destructive, you cause quite a big change to the environment if you’ve got to say dig it up, it’s quite labour intensive and so on,” he said.

“So this could be a faster, simpler way to remediate a site than current technologies, so we want to see whether these particles can reduce the bio-availability of contaminants, which should reduce how much is available to plants and also how much is lost into water-sources.”

Dr Duncan said more understanding was still needed around the ease with which nanoparticles could move into soil, plants or wildlife, and that long-term toxicity was also an important safety factor to evaluate.

However, if his research continues to yield positive results, he said there was the potential for a commercial product for the agriculture industry.

“We need to do it in an Australian context to see how it’s going to potentially impact our industry,” Dr Duncan said.

“We’re aware that there are risks involved with nanoparticles, but the reward could also be great too.”

 

From The Lead

Food industry gets new pest management services standard

HACCP Australia has released a new ‘world’s best practice standard’ for pest management services in the food industry.

Pest control is one of the major issues affecting food safety. It accounts for a significant number of food safety incidents, recalls, audit non-conformance and actions by state health departments.

According to the company, the new standard meets international best practice, both in its development and in terms of the standard itself; and will make a huge contribution to reducing food safety incidents. It can be used to ensure a consistently high standard of service, performance and outcomes in pest control within food handling facilities.

The standard has been developed by expert food technologists at HACCP Australia, together with a review committee comprising food manufacturers, retailers, auditors and pest management companies.

“This is a world first. There are number of guidelines around but guidelines are only that – guidelines. A standard allows for absolute performance measurement and can be used as a minimum criterion for food companies and pest management service providers. Companies operating HACCP programmes need to give their contractors a precise set of measurable expectations and companies certified to this standard will be able to demonstrate their ability to deliver exactly that which is required, said Clive Withinshaw, a director of HACCP Australia.

“It will be a really useful tool both here in Australia and overseas. It has been years in development and the very hard work put in by so many people will at last offer a real benefit to our industry and a reduction in food safety risk and non-conformances.”

All pest management service providers that are currently certified by the company will be audited against this standard after a transition period. New applicants will be audited to this standard henceforth.

The standard is available at no charge to food businesses and contractors. It can be downloaded here.

Chemical-free food factory cleaning system

Tennants ec-H2O technology electrically converts water into an​ innovative cleaning solution that cleans effectively, saves money, improves safety, and reduces environmental impact compared to daily cleaning floor chemicals and methods.
Real-world testing by customers and a third party has shown that scrubbing with ec-H2O technology effectively removes soil. And ec-H2O leaves no chemical residue so your floors retain that polished look with simplified ongoing floor maintenance.
Using ec-H2O technology can deliver cost savings and productivity gains by reducing training, purchasing, storing, handling, and mixing tasks and costs associated with floor cleaning chemicals.

Using ec-H2O technology can deliver cost savings and productivity gains by reducing training, purchasing, storing, handling, and mixing tasks and costs associated with floor cleaning chemicals.

ec-H2O technology significantly reduces the environmental impact of cleaning operations in seven key categories, according to a third-party study by EcoForm. Scrubbers equipped with ec-H2O technology can scrub up to three times longer with a single tank of water and use up to 70% less water than conventional floor scrubbing methods.​​​​​​

 

Safe Work releases new hazardous labelling regulations

Chemicals manufactured or imported before January 1 2017 will be allowed to be supplied without having to meet Work Health and Safety Regulations’ labelling requirements, according to Safe Work Australia.

Safe Work Australia CEO Michelle Baxter said this was decided in response to concerns raised by chemical suppliers in the lead up to Australia developing a globally harmonised system for chemical labelling.

“This approach will ensure a smooth transition to the globally harmonised system, or GHS, and will avoid an unnecessary burden on suppliers to re-label existing chemical stock,” she said.

“From 1 January next year, hazardous chemicals may only be supplied to other workplaces without GHS labelling if they were manufactured or imported on or before 31 December 2016, and were correctly labelled at that time.

“In 2017, manufacturers and importers operating under harmonised work health and safety laws must label their hazardous chemicals in accordance with the GHS under the model WHS Regulations.”

Mother Earth to partner with Netball Victoria

Netball Victoria has announced that Mother Earth has formed a new partnership with our Clinics and Camps program in 2017.

Mother Earth is the flagship brand of Prolife Foods New Zealand, manufacturer and producers of the Mother Earth range of snacks, nuts and spreads including Baked Oaty Slices, Fruit Sticks and Brekkie on the Go!

“We are delighted to have Mother Earth partner with us for Netball Victoria Clinic and Camps in 2017,” said Netball Victoria CEO Rosie King.

“Mother Earth is the perfect fit for Netball Victoria with its wholesome range of snacks, nuts and spreads matching our desire to promote healthy and active lifestyle choices in the netball community.”

As part of the partnership Mother Earth will provide clinic funding, where children have fun improving their skills and making new friends.

King’s sentiments were echoed by Kevin Hawkes, general manager grocery & marketing Mother Earth.

“Mother Earth is thrilled to come on board as a major partner of Netball Victoria Camps and Clinics,” said Hawkes.

“We have always supported community and family through a range of programs including some junior and club level netball sponsorships in New Zealand.”

“This partnership is a perfect opportunity to invest in grass roots netball here as the Mother Earth brand increases its presence and investment in Australia.”

Are we giving our pets poisoned food?

According to phys.org, researchers at the University of Missouri have found that short-term feeding of canned dog food has resulted in a significant increase of BPA in dogs. Scientists believe that because of shared environments, dog exposure to BPA through canned foods could have human health implications.

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a widely used industrial chemical found in many household items, including resins used to line metal storage containers, such as food cans.

 “Bisphenol A is a prevalent endocrine-disrupting chemical found in canned foods and beverages,” said Cheryl Rosenfeld, an associate professor of biomedical sciences in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine and an investigator in the Bond Life Sciences Center.
“We wanted to determine if short-term feeding of widely available commercial canned food could alter BPA concentrations in dogs. Thus, we assessed BPA contained within pet food cans. We also analyzed whether disturbances in bacteria found in the gut and metabolic changes could be associated with exposure to BPA from the canned food.”

“The dogs in the study did have minimal circulating BPA in their blood when it was drawn for the baseline,” Rosenfeld said. “However, BPA increased nearly three-fold after being on the either of the two canned diets for two weeks. We also found that increased serum BPA concentrations were correlated with gut microbiome and in the dogs analyzed. Increased BPA may also reduce one bacterium that has the ability to metabolize BPA and related environmental chemicals.”

Dogs who share internal and external environments with their owners are likely excellent indicators of the effects of BPA and other industrial chemicals on .

“We share our homes with our dogs,” Rosenfeld said. “Thus, these findings could have implications and relevance to humans. Indeed, our canine companions may be the best bio-sentinels for human health concerns.”

“Bisphenol A (BPA) in the serum of pet following short-term consumption of canned dog food and potential health consequences of exposure to BPA” was published in Science of the Total Environment.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2016-12-bisphenol-canned-dog-food-bpa.html#jCp