Salmonella spike in Canberra

Canberra has recorded a large spike in salmonella infections for 2012, and experts say further outbreaks are expected over the summer period.

ABC News reports more than 200 salmonella cases have been reported to ACT Health, with 15 people needing hospital treatment.

Around 60 infections were linked to cafes and restaurants, and the number is significantly higher than the 161 cases recorded in 2011.

ACT Health chief health officer Paul Kelly said consumers needed to watch what they ate over summer, which was the peak season for salmonella.

"We're already starting to see the occasional case in the last few weeks," he said.

"But hopefully with some of the work we've done with industry and cafes improving food safety we won't see such a large peak this summer.”

Image: Wikicommons

Ikana EasySteam Mussels

Product name: Ikana EasySteam Mussels

Product manufacturer: Greenshell New Zealand

Ingredients: Ocean Fresh organically grown mussels with either Ginger Soy Sauce or White Wine and Cream

Shelf life: 18 months

Packaging: EasySteam

Product manager: Mark Ventress

Brand website:

What the company says
A species unique to New Zealand, Greenshell™ Mussels are one of the healthiest, most delicious gourmet food choices. However they are often considered expensive and too hard to include on your weekly menu. The Ikana EasySteam Mussel range is the healthy and easy solution, all in five minutes!

Ikana EasySteam combines the freshness of organically grown mussels with the gourmet delicacy of steam cooking. The Ikana EasySteam range is made with freshly prepared, chef inspired sauces which are free from artificial flavours and colours.

Ikana EasySteam Mussels are lightly blanched then snap frozen to lock in the flavours and goodness. They are packed in convenient ‘easy steam’ trays that can be placed in a microwave and cooked from frozen in just 5 minutes.

The easy steam packaging means you can have a dinner or lunchtime option that’s easy, fast and full of flavour, from freezer to your plate in minutes – just add your favourite pasta, rice or salad.

A great source of Omega 3, iron and protein, New Zealand Greenshell™ Mussels are one of the healthiest, most delicious and now easiest and quickest gourmet meal choices available.

Ikana EasySteam will launch two flavours exclusively across Woolworths stores nationally from the 3rd December 2012.


World-first research to lower cost of prawns

A Sunshine Coast scientist is helping drive world-first research that could help make fresh seafood as cheap as beef and chicken.

University of the Sunshine Coast associate professor and genetics specialist Wayne Knibb said adapting the breeding principles used in other livestock could help lower the price of prawns.

“Really we hope that through these efforts prawns can be $6/kg and consumers can have them a few times a week for dinner instead of being out of reach,” he told The Australian.

"We would expect in the span of time that genetics will give us banana prawns (currently about $15/kg frozen at the supermarket) at the same cost as we get chicken at Woolworths."

Using the techniques that gave us big-breasted chickens and fatter pigs, Knibb said prawns were being genetically selected for their size, taste, and visual appeal.

He said while the goal was to boost the productivity and output of prawn farms, retaining flavour and colour in the animals was also important.

Image: Source

Mussels recalled amid paralytic toxin scare

Spring Bay Seafood's shellfish farm in Tasmania has been closed and Food Standards Australia New Zealand is now recalling its mussels, which could contain a paralytic shellfish toxin.

The toxin has arisen from a naturally-occurring algal bloom and recalled products include Spring Bay live blue mussels (use-by-dates between 22 October 2012 and 10 November 2012) and Coles Cooked Tasmanian mussels (use-by-date 12 November 2012), which have been distributed to Tasmania, Victoria, NSW, ACT, South Australia, Queensland and some Asian countries.

The affected mussels were supplied in shell and in the quantities of 500g and 1kg vacuumed packed bags (Spring Bay Seafood), 500g (Coles branded – the tomato and herb-based sauce and cream white wine sauce varieties) and 1kg and 2kg net bags (Spring Bay Seafood). They may also be supplied loose in shell per kg.

No cases of illness linked to the recalled products have been reported, by FSANZ chief executive officer, Steve McCutcheon, said consumers should still take care and check the brand of mussels in their fridge and if it matches the brand and dates of those recalled, dispose of them or return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

It comes as another aquaculture company, Shellfish Culture Tasmania, received a $135 000 grant from the Tasmanian Government Innovation and Investment Fund to help install new grading and hatchery equipment.

The project is part of the company’s $3 million expansion of an oyster spat at Clifton Beach, and satellite operations at Bicheno.


Queensland man cops hefty fine after being caught with crabs

DNA tracking has been used to trace illegally caught crabs.

Queensland man, Adam Alexander Daly has pleaded guilty to the unlawful possession of 232 female mud crabs and fined $35,000 in the Gladstone Magistrates Court yesterday.

After a tip off from an industry contact, Fisheries Queensland used DNA testing to confirm his crab catch came from the regulated Turkey beach and air freighted south to the Sydney Fish Markets, in New South Wales, for sale.

Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol investigator Deryk Smith told the Gladstone Observer that interstate operations like this should act as a warning that female mud crabs are off limits in Queensland waters.

"Alerted by staff at the Sydney Fish Markets, New South Wales fisheries patrol officers inspected and seized 13 boxes of female mud crabs allegedly sent from Queensland,” Smith said.

Smith explained that although it is legal for female mud crabs to be caught in New South Wales, the female species has been protected in Queensland since 1914; it is the individual’s responsibility to understand the differing regulations and abide by them”.

"Being a responsible crabber means using the right number of pots or dillies, marking them correctly, and being able to identify males from females.

"These restrictions are essential to ensuring the sustainability of the species, which is vulnerable to overfishing given its iconic status in Queensland," Smith said.

Aussies confused about sustainable seafood

While most Australians will say they are environmentally aware and want to improve sustainability, new research has found it is not often a factor considered when purchasing decisions are made.

When consumers purchase goods in Australia they are almost always more concerned with taste and price, rather than sustainably sourced products.

Research commissioned by John West Australia and conducted by Lonergan Research in August 2012 found sustainability ranks low on the list of priorities for Australians purchasing canned seafood, with just 4 per cent saying it as the most important purchasing consideration.

That is the same level of consideration given to the size of the can, with 4 per cent also saying that is the main factor considered when purchasing seafood.

Taste was most important to the highest number of the 1 034 respondents, with 30 per cent saying they regard that factor over all others, while 25 per cent said taste topped the list as the most important considerations.

One of the main reasons consumers aren’t giving sustainable foods the recognition they deserve may be due to the lack of education around what the term means.

Because while the term ‘sustainable seafood’ is often used in advertising, marketing and reporting, the research found that just under a quarter of Australians actually understand what it means.

Despite this, when asked their opinion, 83 per cent of Australians believe it is important that tuna sold in Australia is caught in a sustainable manner, even though they rank it lower than other factors when making a purchasing decision.

Interestingly, men are 6 per cent more likely than women to know what the term ‘sustainable seafood’ means.

Almost 85 per cent said that unless it is labelled they have no idea which brands are sustainable and which are not and 60 per cent agreed they would avoid purchasing tuna if they knew it was caught in an unsustainable manner.

Four in five respondents believe labels about sustainability should be compulsory on seafood and almost 80 per cent believe that there should be incentives to reward companies who are doing the right thing and ensuring their tuna is caught sustainably.

Only 1 in 10 Australians surveyed can name at least one specific species of tuna they believe is at risk of being fished unsustainably, with the two species mentioned most frequently being Bluefin and Yellowfin.

Nearly 9 in 10 Australians do not know what other species (besides tuna) are being overfished or at risk of extinction due to the canned tuna industry.

How much do you know about sustainable seafood practises? Do we need better education on the subject?

Supermarkets are killing farmers: Katter’s address to Parliament

Controversial Queensland MP Bob Katter has slammed the actions of Australia’s largest supermarkets, saying the market share between the big two is unsustainable and killing farmers.

“In 1991 in Australia, two supermarket giants had 50.5 per cent of the food market,” Katter told the Federal Parliament on Wednesday.

“In 1999, John Howard, the Prime Minister, agreed to an inquiry.

“By that time the market share of the two supermarket giants had risen to 65 per cent.

“Everybody knew that their market share was shooting through the roof.

“The inquiry, comprising all parties, including the Australian Democrats, effectively recommended that nothing be done.

“There were three alternatives.

“One was, as the National Association of Retail Grocers of Australia, or NARGA—the independents—asked for, a capping at and divestment down to 22 per cent of market share for each of the giants.

“A second was to go to American trust laws.

“The third alternative was to considerably strengthen the Australian Consumer and Trade Practices Act.

“Not one of the three alternatives was adopted by the committee.

“No-one can read their report—an excellent report, I might add—and not understand that the major parties in Australia are controlled by Woolworths and Coles.

“No other country on Earth would accept this situation.

“Let me give you the figures for other countries.

“The report I am referring to, Fair market or market failure, gives the figures for other countries. “There is not one other country on Earth where the big three have even 25 per cent.

“But in Australia, when this report came out, they had 65 per cent.”

Chemical dangers

Katter said Australia’s free trade agreements are damaging the health of consumers who are unaware of the origin of their food or the way in which it is grown and manufactured in foreign countries.

As Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) Director Terry Toohey told the Food Magazine Industry Leaders Summit recently, the reliance on imports could leave not only Australian companies and farms out of business, but also pose a risk to consumer safety.

“How can we encourage people to buy Australian products, certainly it appears that they can buy the products cheaper overseas, and they will do so,” Toohey said.

“Some of the issues, as farmer I can relate to are things like apples for example, or oranges, these products that those fruits and veggies are soaking in, we can’t [use] those chemicals here in Australia.

“Yet the imports can come in.

“We use clean water to wash these fruits but some of the chemicals they use over there have been gone for 10, 15 years out of Australia.

“But that’s quiet alright, we have no say and the government just won’t listen to us.”

Katter agreed in his address to the Parliament.

“We cannot sell on the world market because of the massive subsidies from the other countries,” he said.

“It is almost impossible for us to compete on the world market.

“So we come back to the Australian market, and week after week, day after day, product is brought in from overseas.

“Hardly a week goes by where there is not something in the papers about some new commodity coming in from overseas.

“I am told that Woolworths has a whole three-storey building employing people doing nothing else except sourcing cheap food from overseas.”

“We cannot compete in apples.

“I said, 'Hold on, it's America and New Zealand,' and they said, 'Yes, $9 an hour.' We would pay $19 an hour, and so we should, but the wage in the United States in California is $9 an hour, and in New Zealand it is $9 an hour.

“The apples will also be coming in from China, where the average income is $5,000 a year.

“How can we compete against those apples?

“Everybody knows they have fire blight.

“You had the reason to keep them out, but you did not.

“You are so in love and enamoured with and obsessive about free trade that you will bring those apples in knowing that they have been sprayed with streptomycin, antibiotics, to get rid of the disease.

“You know that.

“So I will be moving legislation in this House so that, if you want to bring an apple in from those three countries which have fire blight and spray with streptomycin—because we have no way of checking whether it is sprayed with streptomycin—every apple will have a marker on it.

“We heard the minister stand up today on cigarettes.

“There is a serious danger to our health from these apples.

“Everyone will have a marker: 'This product has not been grown or processed under Australian health and hygiene standards and may be injurious to your health.'”

Katter discussed his disappointment with the current prawn farming industry in Australia, saying they also pose a risk to public health and safety.

“I say with very great pride that, as a minister [in the Qld Government], I have been attributed with the creation of the prawn- and fish-farming industries of Australia—and no doubt my department played a very key role in the establishment of those industries.

“Prawn and fish farming in Australia rose up to $600 million at one stage.

“We have virtually no prawn farming at all now in Australia.

“We thought we would catch Thailand at $2,000 million. Thailand has gone up to $8,000 million; we have gone down to nothing.

“And that is because Woolworths and Coles are bringing their prawns in from Vietnam, China and Thailand.

“In Vietnam they actually use raw sewage in the ponds.

“In Thailand, they put the raw sewage in the river, and in China they put raw sewage in the river and take raw sewage out.

“We have to have pure, bacteria-free water going in and pure, bacteria-free water going out, which is impossible, so forget about any prawn farming in Australia.

“But those prawns are coming in, and we know they are carrying diseases.

“They have to be.

“They are being brought up in a bacterial environment.

“So once again, as far as I am concerned, every single little box of prawns anywhere in Australia will carry that label on it.

“At the very least, that will slow Woolworths and Coles down from bringing them into Australia.”

Unbalanced market share

“Every other country has laws protecting against monopolistic powers—oligopolistic, if I want to be technical.

“Every country on earth has that.

“We have no laws that protect.

“Clearly, if they could rise from 50.5 per cent in 1991, after inquiry after inquiry after inquiry, up to 92 per cent—and these are their own figures, not mine; they are not my figures.

“Every year they claim they have a growth in market share, and I have been tracking them since the ABS series was discontinued and the AC Nielsen series was discontinued.

“There was to be a review in 2002.

“Both series were discontinued in 2002, so we could not prove anything because there were no series there anymore.

“I am not a conspiracy theorist, Madam Deputy Speaker, but it is pretty difficult to write around that one in 2002.

“But, since 2002, Coles and Woolworths have skited to their shareholders about their growth in market share.

“Add that to the 74 per cent they had in 2002 and you have 92 per cent, and we are still doing nothing in this place.”

Katter echoed the comments from various experts within the food industry, who are already noticing the flow-on effects of the reduced farm-gate prices on local communities.

“There will be no newsagents.

“There will be no chemists.

“There will be no florists.

“There will be no bakers.

“There will be nothing.

“They want it all, and this place [Parliament of Australia] has facilitated giving them it all.

“Woolworths and Coles must be acted upon.

“Every four days, a farmer in Australia commits suicide. And that is the note upon which I conclude.”

What do you think of Katter’s comments? Do you agree? Disagree?

Australian fishing could meet all local demand, Senate Inquiry told

A Senate Inquiry has been told that Australia imports 70 per cent of its seafood, which could be grown locally if an international shipping service is reinstated.

Of that, 22 per cent of the seafood sold in 2010-11, Australia came from Thailand, while 14 per cent was sourced from New Zealand.

But local fishing companies believe they can source the amount of seafood required for the Australian market locally.

"Our aim is to start eating into that area," Tim Hess, general manager of Petuna Seafood, which produces 5500 tonnes of ocean trout each year, told the Inquiry into Australia’s Food Processing Sector on Thursday.
Hess said total annual salmon production across the state is trending upwards and now represents 35,000 tonnes per year.

"It’s been increasing by between six and eight per cent a year for the past five years," he said.

While the amount of seafood available in Tasmanian waters is high, the state is facing increasing difficulty to move the product offshore, particularly after it lost its only international freight service last year.

The service was a direct link between Bell Bay and Singapore, giving the state the availability to move its seafood throughout Asia, but now the shipments incur higher shipping costs because they have to go through Melbourne.

Hess said not having a direct link to Asia is “a major concern,” for the state, particularly when they are competing with suppliers in New Zealand, which he says is akin to “an oversized Tasmania.”

"They can get a product into Melbourne or Sydney just as quick as us," he said.

"And they are on to it pretty quickly."

Hess told the inquiry he is currently exporting 10 per cent of his product to overseas markets, but he is finding that increasingly difficult without an international shipping service.

"As Tasmanian exporters, it’s up to us to go out into the shipping world and try and encourage a shipping line to come back onto this island and give us a link into South East Asia," he said.

The Select Committee on Australia’s Food Processing Sector is examining the entire supply chain of the seafood market.

It will look at primary input costs through to competitiveness of the retail sector and the supply to customers.

The Senate Inquiry into the impact of the supermarket duopoly in Australia is already underway, but companies are too frightened to speak up against Coles and Woolworths for fear of the repercussions the corporations can deliver.

The impact of the global market on the food processing sector will also be examined, by looking at the impact of anti-dumping laws and international anti-free trade measures.

Hess wants an “unwritten guarantee” from the federal government on the proposal.

The findings of the Select Committee is due to be reported to the Senate on 30 June.

Image: The ABC