Securing the safety of genetic modification

Most genetically modified (GM) crops are based on moving DNA from one organism to another to introduce a new protein. Now a growing number of genetically modified crops are based on intentionally changing RNA. However this new technology may prove to be risky business.

RNA world

RNA or ribonucleic acid is the neglected stepsister of DNA, but it is quickly becoming the Cinderella of biotechnology.

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the material basis of the genome of most organisms, it’s what encodes our genes. RNA is the second stage of a process that produces proteins in cells. It’s the messenger and is normally single-stranded. However, when it’s double-stranded, RNA is sometimes also a molecule that can turn genes on off.

The RNA molecules used in genetic modification are known as double-stranded RNAs. These RNA molecules are already being explored for a number of uses.

A number of companies are planning to engineer plants with double-stranded RNAs to kill pests. Some are also planning to make sprays that carry RNA into the cells of weeds.

Double-stranded RNA is being tested as a feed supplement to make bees resistant to viruses, or to kill bee mites.

And GM plants with nutritional characteristics altered through the introduction of novel double-stranded RNAs are already being grown for the human food supply.

RNA: the “new DNA” of genetic modification

Most traits in existing commercial genetically modified organisms are due to the introduction of one or more proteins by modifying DNA. But new modifications are based on the double-stranded RNA molecules that regulate production of proteins.

Double-stranded RNAs can “silence” genes. For example, a small double-stranded RNA molecule has been developed based on a fragment of the dvsnf7 gene. This can kill western corn rootworms when the molecule is added to their food, or when it is expressed (by GM) in the corn plants which the worms eat.

Although the mechanisms for this are still being described, there are already a number of GM crops based on this principle. It is also probable that all commercial GM crops produce unintended regulatory RNA molecules that have not been tested as part of the routine risk assessment.

Worse, one double-stranded RNA can produce unintended secondary RNA molecules that have different sequences and therefore potentially different targets. These can arise in the modified plant or in the cells of those who eat the modified plant.

 

Not just food: double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) is already used in other consumer products. https://www.larifans.lv/en/

 

We are concerned that what happens to pest insects and nematodes that eat these RNA molecules can also happen to other insects, wildlife and people. An increase or decrease in cell proteins can have important effects on our health. These effects vary depending on the protein, and the cells, organs or tissues to which the double-stranded RNA is delivered.

Small changes in the DNA sequence can change the spectrum and number of potentially affected genes. That is why in our view a risk assessment needs to consider each novel RNA created specifically, whether deliberately or inadvertently.

Risk assessment

The risks of double-stranded RNA have not been systematically evaluated by any regulatory agency we know of, and there are no standard safety testing procedures.

In a recent issue of Environment International we published peer-reviewed research looking at risk assessments done by three different regulators affecting three countries. In all cases the regulators didn’t assess the risk of new double-stranded RNA molecules.

In Australia and New Zealand, a genetically modified plant is subject to an environmental risk assessment if it is to be used in a field trial or released for cultivation. A food safety assessment if it is to be used in food or animal feed.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand assesses GM plants that are safe for use as food. Seven plants approved by Food Standards have been deliberately modified to produce double-stranded RNAs.

Various GM wheat varieties have been assessed for field trial by the Australian Office of the Gene Technology Regulator. These use the same double-stranded RNA technology. Neither regulator, to our knowledge, has assessed a GM plant for unintentionally created double-stranded RNAs.

Exposure incorrectly assessed

Double-stranded RNA produced in plants can be taken up by people through food, as shown in studies last year. Insects also take up RNA through food, which is why manufacturers are patenting dietary-based insecticides.

In another study a naturally produced double-stranded RNA was found to alter gene expression in mouse livers. Double stranded RNA could also alter gene expression in human tissue culture cells.

Until now regulators have rejected the possibility that people can be exposed to double-stranded RNA through food. There has therefore been no research into the safety of these molecules. In short, regulators avoid assessing potential safety issues by saying there were no risks to start with.

Were the regulators right but for the wrong reasons?

Various commentators have argued since RNA is already in the food we eat, it must be safe. Without evidence this reasoning is far from reassuring.

Only a small number of plants have been bred with intended changes to double-stranded RNA. And most of these have been withdrawn from sale, are not grown on commercial scales, or are in boutique crops such as Hawaiian papaya.

The amount of these RNAs in food now is unknown but is probably very small. Thus the argument of safety from existing experience is, at best, speculative. And it fails to account for unintended double-stranded RNAs.

If there are no experiments, we won’t know if double-stranded RNAs have an adverse impact or no impact. While we test food to some extent, there are no studies of other important sources of exposure such as inhalation. And critically, these studies are not on humans: even small differences between our genomes and those of the animals used in tests might have large consequences.

If we are to safely produce products that might contain novel double-stranded RNA molecules, there needs to be routine bioinformatics and transcriptomic testing.

The power of RNA should be used for the betterment of all. On the way, it should not become the snake oil of the 21st Century or the cause of avoidable catastrophes.

Jack Heinemann receives/has received funding from the Marsden Fund of New Zealand, the Brian Mason Trust, the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation and the Safe Food Institute. He works at the University of Canterbury, a public research university.

Judy Carman is Director of the Institute of Health and Environmental Research. She has received funding from the Safe Food Institute.

Sarah Agapito does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Parasites and imports – a sticky situation for Australian honey producers

The last few years have been a tumultuous affair for Australian beekeepers. The threat of varroa mite, transhipping and older generations leaving the industry is making it more important than ever to support our local producers. 

Australia produces some of the world’s finest honey with a yield of up to 140kg per hive per year. This is due to a number of factors including a high volume of eucalyptus which is a fantastic nectar producer and the fact that we are so geographically distant from the rest of the world, preventing us from the introduction of harmful parasites and diseases.

But can Australian honey producers continue to rely on our geographical advantage to warn off parasites such as the industry destroying varroa mite?

“It’s going to happen eventually,” explains Lamorna Osborne, president of the Illawarra Beekeeping Association.

“The whole rest of the world has got it.

“We have already had two instances on ships that verroa mite was found on, one at Kurnell and the other at Darwin,” she said

Collapsing colonies the world over 

According to Osborne, Australia is the only country in the world that does not have the varroa mite problem.

A typical beehive consists of anything from two to four stackers with the baby bees on the bottom stack. The varroa mite, which is about the size of a match head, sucks on the blood of the baby bees which weakens the whole hive and its resistance to parasites.

There have been instances in America where entire bee colonies have suffered from what is widely being referred to as ‘colony collapse disorder’, where complete bee colonies have abruptly disappeared. 

Osborne mentioned that she had spoken to a number of South American bee keepers who were “happy if they can even get 7 kilos per hive”. 

Another challenge that the bee industry is facing is the Asian honey bee which has already come through Cairns according to Osborne. 

“It got in via a mast in a ship and is actually frequently swarming. It actually gets in and robs all the honey from the beehives so the bees starve to death. So that’s already here.”

An ageing industry is taking its toll

The hurdles for Australian beekeepers do not end there. Transhipping, low productivity and the older generation hanging up their coats is also proving to take its toll on this fragile industry.

“The older generation are leaving the industry and no younger people coming on,” explains Casey Cooper, Councillor of the NSW Apiarist Association.

There have been initiatives in place to encourage the younger generation to participate, however to make a viable future in the market is becoming more and more challenging.

“It is a niche market and as more things come along, more diseases more problems, it’s a harder and harder industry to break into and then make it successful,” he said. 

“If you’re established, it’s not quite as hard on you, but to come in today into the industry, and start and make a go of it, it would be a lot harder than it was 20-30 years ago.

“We have had a low productivity in the last 3 to 5 years. Imported honey coming in has not made our price rise because there is enough honey to supply the markets in the country. Imported honey is one big problem we’ve got to the bee keeping industry.”

Liane Colwell from the NSW Beekeeping Association also explained that transhipping is creating an inferior product.

“Chinese honey is exported to India, Malaysia and other countries and then imported into America and Australia. Their standards are quite different. They use antibiotics that we don’t use, there is often residues like chloramphenicol, and the other thing is that they often adulterate with sugar syrups, so it’s not honey,” she said.

“There is a big difference in feeding sugar and syrup to bees, and adding it to honey that is already finished.”

Colwell explained that honey sold in the supermarkets demand a cheap price and as a result, honey is imported and local producers lose out. 

“If you’re a small operator there is no possibility that you can sell in a supermarket,” she said.

Both Colwell and Cooper emphasised the importance of trade and consumer shows such as the Royal Easter Show and local farmers markets as key channels to connect to the public and pass on knowledge. 

It’s now more important than ever to buy local and support our Australian producers.

Sweet news: No evidence that artificial sweetener aspartame’s bad for you

Everyone who works in a chemistry laboratory knows that you don’t use your taste receptors to check if an unknown chemical is safe or deadly poisonous (or if you do, you may do it only once). But if this hadn’t inadvertently happened in one lab, the most commonly used artificial sweetener today may never have been discovered.

In 1965, a chemist working with amino acids (the building blocks of protein) created a new chemical by combining the amino acids aspartic acid and phenylalanine. He didn’t realise that some of this novel substance had spilled onto a piece of paper lying on the laboratory bench. The chemist licked his finger to pick up the paper and inadvertently transferred some of the chemical into his mouth.

Luckily, he lived to tell the tale. What he had to tell was extraordinary and completely unexpected. By combining two of the building blocks of protein (which has no sweetness), he had created a substance that was about 200 times as sweet as sugar!

Dubbed “aspartame”, the newly-created chemical was found to provide virtually no kilojoules in the minute quantity needed to sweeten a beverage or solid food.

After extensive safety testing, aspartame was approved for use in Europe and the United States in the 1980s. Its use as a sweetener in a range of foods at specified levels is also permitted in Australia and New Zealand.

Indeed, it is now the most widely used artificial sweetener in the world, and is sold in Australia most commonly under the brand names NutraSweet and Equal.

Hoax claims about aspartame have been circulating on the internet for many years. They suggest it was first developed as an ant poison, and that it is broken down in the body to release formaldehyde, leading to health problems such as severe seizures, brain damage, lupus and birth defects. No credible scientific evidence has ever been found for any of these claims.

Of more substance is the claim that artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, may be a cause of cancer. Rat studies have shown an association between the consumption of these sweeteners and cancer incidence.

But, as the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) pointed out in 2007, the rat studies involved intakes “far greater than humans could consume in foods and drinks”. The WCRF concluded that “The evidence … does not suggest that chemical sweeteners have a detectable effect on the risk of any cancer.”

Another comprehensive review of the safety of aspartame, also published in 2007, came to a similar conclusion: “The weight of existing evidence is that aspartame is safe at current levels of consumption as a non‑nutritive sweetener.”

In 2010, two studies reported possible associations between aspartame and a slight increase in adverse health outcomes. After carefully reviewing these studies the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) concluded that these studies “do not give reason to reconsider previous safety assessments of aspartame …”

But taking an appropriately cautious approach, the report also stated that “… the EFSA will continue monitoring the scientific literature in order to identify new scientific evidence for sweeteners that may indicate a possible risk for human health or which may otherwise affect the safety assessment of these food additives.”

The most recent (March 2013) review of the literature by the EFSA concludes that “There is no consistent evidence that aspartame has adverse effects, either in healthy individuals or in potentially susceptible groups …”

The 2012 position paper of the US Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also endorses the safety of aspartame by stating that “… consumers can safely enjoy a range of nutritive sweeteners and non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS).” Aspartame is included in the seven non-nutritive sweeteners that are approved for use.

The position paper also points out that the estimated safe level of daily intake of aspartame over a lifetime is 50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. With typical intakes estimated to be in the range 0.2 to 4.1 mg/kg, the rate of consumption of aspartame by virtually everyone is likely to be less than 10% of the maximum recommended level.

But there is one potential adverse health effect associated with the use of aspartame – a metabolic genetic condition called phenylketonuria (a mutation that makes an enzyme non-functional) affects about one person in 10,000. People with phenylketonuria cannot metabolise phenylalanine (which, you will recall, is one of the two protein building blocks that make up aspartame), so those people need to minimise intake of all sources of phenylalanine, including aspartame.

So, can I put my hand on my heart and swear that aspartame is safe for everyone other than people with phenylketonuria?

No, I can’t. Still, based on the evidence currently available, if I wanted to reduce my sugar intake but still enjoy sweetened tea or coffee, I would have no hesitation in using aspartame (or any of the other approved non-nutritive sweeteners).

Chris Forbes-Ewan received funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council in 2006 for his contribution to the development of Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand. His contribution was in the area of estimated energy requirements.

The Conversation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

24 hours with M&J Chickens

Food magazine recently launched its Industry Map, where we ask food manufacturing professionals to shed light on the trials and tribulations of their work. Here, Harry Souris, national operations manager at M&J Chickens, discusses poultry and growing a family owned business.

What makes your job tick?

On behalf of myself and my family I’d have to say that M&J Chickens is like having another sibling in our family. It’s a great sense of pride that comes over us each and every time we see our brand around town whether it be our vehicles on the roads across Australia or an article in a magazine like this one or even our logo on TV at football games.

Mum & Dad started this business a few years before I was born and I have been heavily involved ever since. We still as a family spend endless hours in and on the business and are constantly brain storming together to find ways to revolutionise our products and remain leaders in the poultry industry whilst continuing to exceed our clients expectations.

What are your primary roles and responsibilities in your job? Give us a day in your working life.

I am responsible for the operational side of the business on a national level; I liaise with our teams across Australia on a daily basis to maintain stock control and to generally make sure that things are running smoothly, In doing so I’m also required to travel regularly and conduct meetings and training for our management teams to then pass onto their staff.

What training/education did you need for your job?

When I left school I studied Business Management at the University Of Western Sydney, this has assisted in helping me to manage people and also to gain understanding of interpreting financial documents; but to be honest being involved in this business since a child has meant that I have grown with the business and have had hands on experience to get to where both the business is today and where I am within the business.

It’s the upbringing and involvement that I’ve had with the growth of the business that has given me the knowledge to be able to succeed in my position.

How did you get to where you are today? Give us a bullet point career path.

This question is a little tricky for me because I was basically born into it.

Together with my siblings I have been actively involved with the business since we were old enough to walk and talk; I remember packing product into boxes at the tender age of eight years old. These days we all play an active part in the running of the business on a national level, being based and having worked in the Sydney head office we endeavour to maintain all of our warehouses at the level of quality and service that is synonymous with the M&J Chickens name which is ultimately our family’s reputation.

What tools and/or software do you use on a daily basis?

We operate using a software system called Clear Objective; this system processes all our sales orders and purchase orders, I refer to this system as the ‘brains’ behind our business because it allows us to maintain stock control and forecast stock moving forward to ensure we are not caught off guard. 

It also provides the necessary financials required so that we can keep track of profitability. Being such a fast paced business dealing with fresh produce and operating 24 hours has meant that we also have a close relationship with our IT personnel and he is on call 24/7 which relieves a lot of pressure knowing that we have the support available when necessary.

 What is the one thing that you are most proud of in your professional life?

I would have to say that personally I am most proud of the growth of our cook-house. I have seen the cook-house grow from a small oven in the back of one of our warehouses to an entire cook-house facility that occupies two industrial warehouses.

Our cooked range consists of 5 different lines in a wide range of different flavours. Cooked product now makes up for just over 30% of our business.

Biggest daily challenge?

The biggest challenge for me is motivating people day to day. I have been raised in a very positive and uplifting environment and that has resulted in me having a very positive mentality. I find it hard to sympathise with people that lack motivation and I try and encourage people to come to work every day and be happy and full of life. I believe that positivity and motivation is the key to keeping staff happy at work. 

What is your biggest frustration in your job?

I must say it takes a fair bit to frustrate me and I have learned to have a high level of patience and tolerance in order to get through my day. I try not to let things get to me and lead by example by remaining calm, cool and collected at all times.

If I were to get frustrated it would be on the rare occasion when something goes wrong that it is out of my control, for example a supplier not being able to fulfil our product needs in order for us to produce product for a client is the ultimate frustration for me because letting down our clients is always the worst case scenario. I would exercise every possible option before letting down the client.

Is there anything else about your job you want Australia to know about?

To anyone in Australia that doesn’t know of our company and what we do I believe the most important and useful pieces of information I could provide is that M&J Chickens is a 100% Australian family owned business with the family still actively involved in the everyday running of the business. The business has gone from a local chicken shop in Wiley Park NSW to a national business with operations in every major state of Australia. We are now also export approved and have began the processes in order to export our products to Asia and the U.A.E.

We are committed to a high level of service and quality. Our goal is to make M&J Chickens a house hold name and have people all over the world enjoying our poultry products. We strive to innovate and broaden our product range to suit the needs of our clients.

Private labels debate: should we get over it?

The debate over private labels at grocery stores rages on but one beverage industry veteran, Peter Brooks, has told grocery manufacturers bemoaning the rise of private labels to ‘get over it’.

“It’s a fact of life and that’s where the future is heading for some categories,” he said.

“The fact is whether it’s Coles, Woolworths or Aldi, it’s their business and as long as their shareholders are happy I don’t think anyone else can do anything about it – you can fight it all you like, but that’s not going to help.”

Brooks has been bottling water, juice and soft drinks for 40 years. His company, Tru-Blu Beverages produces branded drinks as well as private label beverages for many of the major retailers.

His comments come as Woolworths’ private label brands are expanding two to three times faster than national brands. It’s an indication consumers are happy with the retailer’s approach to double the sale penetration of house brands.

Managing director of Australian supermarkets, Tjeerd Jegen told AFR total sales across Woolworths’ house brands like Homebrand, Select, Gold and Macro, had increased by “low double-digits” this year.

This is two to three times the rate of growth in national and international brands, where deflation has hampered top-line sales growth.

Private label products make up 6 per cent of stock-keeping units on Woolworths shelves and 10 per cent of total sales.

According to Nielsen’s Homescan survey, private label brands at Woolworths now make up 18.3 per cent of packaged grocery sales, up from 16.8 per cent in April. Coles’ private label brands make up for 20.5 per cent of packaged groceries, down from 20 per cent two years ago.

Jegen said customers are ‘voting with their feet’ and like the better value and choice private labels have to offer.

In a major study published by Harvard Business School Press in 2007, titled ‘Private Label Strategy’, it said there is an innate conflict between manufacturers and retailers as customers and retailers as competitors.

There have been complaints private label brands were rising faster than proprietary brands because of strategies by retailers that gives partiality to private brands.

Suppliers have complained private labels are selling more than branded goods because brands are being taken out of shelves, reducing consumer choice.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council has rejected suggestions consumers are welcoming retailers’ private label approach.

“We know that choice is being restricted and therefore competition is also being restricted under the private label strategy,” AFGC chief executive Gary Dawson said.

“Clearly consumers have to choose from what’s in front of them, and there’s no lack of complaints about what’s happened to their choice.”

Suppliers have complained to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission that retailers have taken their brands off the shelves for private labels unless they agree to decrease prices, pay extra fees or agree to supply house brands.

Suppliers have insisted retailers quarantine or ‘ring fence’ their private label and branded grocery buying teams to block supermarkets from using confidential supplier information to create and market private label brands.

But both Jegen and Nielsen’s executive director retail services, Kosta Conomos, have rejected this idea.

“When you are mixing a decision on the best mix for a category you need to look at the overall proposition – that’s not necessarily brand versus private label but the tiers within the category in terms of good, better, best and understanding where duplication is required,” Conomos said.

But ACCC chairman Rod Sims has said the watchdog is seriously considering ring fencing as part of its investigations into the abuse of market power by major retailers.

In July last year business information research firm IBISWorld predicted the share of private label products will rise significantly over the next five years and will make up over 30 per cent of supermarkets sales by 2017-18.

IBISWorld general manager (Australia) Karen Dobie had said private label products have been one of the fastest growing divisions over the past ten years. Growing costs of living, further worsened by the carbon tax, meant more consumers were expected to choose private labels as a cheaper alternative.

Dobie said spending on private labels is set to reach $31.8 billion by 2017-18, a growth of nearly 50 per cent compared to five years ago and a 33 per cent share of total supermarket sales.

“In 2007-08, private labels accounted for just 13.5 per cent of total supermarket sales- meaning the segment has grown by more than 85 per cent over the past five years,” she said.

The research had shown the growth in market share of private labels across many product categories, including butter, bread, fresh milk and liquor. Market share of liquor in 2012-13 was 8 per cent, compared to just 2 per cent in 2002-03.

In March, Food Magazine reported wine producers in Australia were becoming concerned over the supermarket giants’ growing interest in wine.

There were reports Woolworths had registered interest in the collapsed Barossa Estate Winery, and Western Australian wine producers were fighting the supermarkets’ plans to open liquor shops in Margaret River.

Wine Industry Association of WA general manager Aymee Mastaglia said competition between Coles and Woolworths would reduce prices and overpower cellar doors and independent retailers.

She stated supermarkets buy wine in bulk from wineries and bottle them so they look like they are from boutique wineries, when they are actually private label products.

“Even if consumers want to support local business, they often don’t realise they are buying the supermarket’s private labels,” she added.

Choice reported last year private label products can yield huge profits even though their prices are lower than branded goods.

This is because, as Coles merchandise director John Durkan said: “We only have to advertise Coles.”

Durkan also said the retailers set up individual research development areas, and work with suppliers who supply many people, to cut cost. Manufacturing is streamlined.

Supermarket shelves are not flexible. There is little space for growth after the preliminary supermarket floor plan. If there are two brands competing for shelf space, and one brand is owned by the supermarket, there is little doubt who will get that shelf space.

The future of meat is not meat says Bill Gates

When you think of food innovation, Bill Gates may not be the first person that springs to mind. As the founder of Microsoft, a company that disrupted the way we all work, rest and play, he may have some insights into what the future of food may be.

In a post on technology blog Mashable, Gates said that with a global population heading toward 9 billion, we are going to run out of land for raising livestock sooner or later.
 

Gates is bullish on the ability of technology, and three companies in particular to defeat the current reliance on meat as we know it.

“what makes them really interesting is their taste. Food scientists are now creating meat alternatives that truly taste like — and have the same “mouth feel” — as their nature-made counterparts.” wrote Gates.

“Flavor and texture have been the biggest hurdles for most people in adopting meat alternatives. But companies like Beyond Meat, Hampton Creek Foods and Lyrical are doing some amazing things.”

Beyond Meat makes chicken alternatives which Gates claims he could not discern from regular chicken.

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There is also Hampton Creek, which makes an egg alternative which “does away with the high cholesterol content of real eggs.”

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Non dairy cheese maker Lyrical gets acclaim for its low fat non0-dairy cheese, as does Nu-Tek for its effort to reduce sodium intake by using potassium chloride, without making it taste awful.

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Culture clash?

Using technology to solve the worlds food problems might be a tantalising prospect, especially for someone like Gates who lives, breathes and (apparently) eats disruptive technology.But will the public accept these “fake foods”?

Whilst vegans and vegetarians may jump at the chance to get cheese, meat and eggs without any of the ethical concerns, mainstream food marketing has had a strong emphasis on natural for some years. Although the use of the word natural may be dropping, https://www.foodmag.com.au/news/food-labelling-trends-moving-away-from-natural-cla these are being replaced with more specific terms like GM Free and additive- or preservative-free.

So where does this leave food producers? Is there a movement towards natural, untouched food, or will the public be willing to accept meat, egg and cheese analogues?


Only time will tell.

Reducing methane from dairy cows: it’s all in the oil

By Richard Eckard, University of Melbourne

The Carbon Farming Initiative is about to provide incentives for dairy farmers to reduce emissions from their milking cows. Emissions will be reduced by changing the cows' diet.

The proposed new methodology alters the activity of the gut’s methane-producing microorganisms. This reduces the amount of methane “belched” by cattle from their digestive system.

The organisms in the fore-stomach of sheep and cattle produce methane – called enteric methane – from the hydrogen and carbon dioxide that result from microbial digestion of cows' food.

Strategies for reducing enteric methane include breeding for lower methane-producing animals, microbial interventions, and nutrition and animal management. Most of these are currently being researched through the National Livestock Methane Program. Over the next few years we may see a number of these strategies developed into new Carbon Farming Initiative methods to reduce enteric methane.

But in this case the research team explored dietary interventions, demonstrating that feeds containing tannins or high levels of oil reduce methane production from livestock.

There are five possible ways oil supplementation reduces methane:

  • reducing fibre digestion
  • lowering total feed intake (this is obviously undesirable, and only occurs when total dietary fat exceeds 6% to 7% of total intake)
  • suppressing the micro-organisms that make methane and suppressing rumen protozoa, on which those organisms depend.

Tannins, on the other hand, reduce enteric methane by directly suppressing methane-making micro-organisms.

A key part of the research was demonstrating that different dietary oils – all by-products from other agricultural processes – could reduce enteric methane equally.

The by-products studied included whole cotton seed, cold-pressed canola meal, hominy meal and brewers grains. All of these can theoretically be sourced as by-products of biofuel production. Additionally, if these by-products are adding energy to the diet, they will also increase milk production. The profitability of this milk production increase depends on the comparative price of conventional grain feeding.

The research team then asked the obvious question – if tannin and oils were added to the diet, would this have an additive effect on inhibiting methane production? However, when added to the diet as pure extracts, tannins and oils appeared to neutralise each other (perhaps with the tannin binding the oils making the combination ineffective). The focus shifted to potential feed additives that contain both tannin and oil, naturally occurring in one product. The obvious choice was grape marc, a by-product of wine making with a high concentration of both fat and tannins. Feeding grape marc to dairy cattle reduced methane by up to 20%.

Carbon Farming Initiative offset methodologies can only be built on peer reviewed research, so the team combined their published data with a global review of literature and demonstrated that for every 1% extra oil added to the diet of livestock, enteric methane can be reduced by 3.5%. The upper limit for dietary fats and oils in feed is 7% and the natural oils in grass range from 1% (summer) to 5% (spring), so there is a window of 90 days in the summer when natural grass oils are low enough that supplementary feeding can be introduced to reduce enteric methane production.

This evidence was considered sufficiently robust to underpin the first CFI offset methodology for livestock.

This method has now been released for public consultation. When it’s approved – together with those already approved for destruction of methane from dairy manure ponds and removal of carbon dioxide through environmental plantings – it will give dairy farmers options to take part in the Carbon Farming Initiative. As the income from the CFI for each of these methods individually is relatively modest, these methods are most likely to be adopted where they bring productivity gains or align with broader farming objectives.

This work is the culmination of over six years research by the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and the University of Melbourne. The research, co-funded by the DAFF Climate Change Research Program, Meat and Livestock Australia and Dairy Australia, focused on providing dairy farmers with an option for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from milking cows through feeding dietary additives.

Richard Eckard receives funding from Dairy Australia and Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

The Conversation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Living to tell the tail: how and why Australia survived the horse meat scandal

The horse meat scandal was devastating for a number of international brands, forced to pull their products from the shelves and deal with the subsequent loss in consumer confidence. Australia stands unscathed from the whole incident. How? And why? Danielle Bowling reports.

It was the story that just wouldn’t go away. Every day there was a new headline and a new development; a new brand embroiled in the horse meat scandal, which triggered several product recalls, formal investigations and even arrests.

Supermarket chains Tesco and Aldi recalled their frozen spaghetti and lasagne products, produced by French supplier, Comigel, amid concerns over its Findus beef lasagne product.

After the Food Safety Authority of Ireland found horse DNA in burger products, ten million were pulled from the various supermarket shelves across Europe. Even furniture retailer IKEA became involved, recalling its meatball products across Europe after tests in the Czech Republic discovered some meatballs sold in the chain’s cafeterias contained horse meat. The affected batch had been distributed to Britain, Portugal, Netherlands, Belgium, Slovakia, Hungary, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Cyprus and Ireland.

The scandal even spread to Asia with Hong Kong authorities ordering supermarket chain, ParknShop, to remove lasagnes made by frozen food company Findus, one of the firms at the centre of the scandal.
French meat processing firm, Spanghero, is said to be at the heart of the scandal, allegedly passing off more than 700 tonnes of horsemeat as beef, with manufacturers none the wiser, and is no longer allowed to stock frozen meat.

Dodged the bullet
Australia, thankfully, steered clear of the whole situation. But how?
The Australian Food and Grocery Council’s deputy chief executive, Jeffrey Annison, told Food magazine the European horse meat scandal demonstrated to Australian food manufacturers that the food supply chain is a safe and effective one.

“I think that if it had any impact here it was to remind us all in the food industry and the wider community of the importance of focusing on the things that the food industry does well in Australia, which is to make sure the integrity of the food supply is maintained and that’s in terms of quality of product, safety of product and correct information going out to the consumer about the product,” he said.

The four key pillars of an effective food supply, he says, are a strong regulatory system; an understanding that food safety and food security are built on food quality and safety plans; an appropriate monitoring and surveillance system; and traceability up and down the food supply system.

Australian manufacturers – and perhaps more importantly, consumers – need to understand that the problems overseas were to do with illegal activity, not industry negligence.

“So those are the four pillars, and those are designed to protect against inadvertent loss of quality or safety,” Annison says, “of course what happened in Europe was food adulteration, so it was driven by profit rather than accidental contamination. Now that’s harder to control but you still need strong regulatory systems and monitoring systems.

“The usual driver for food adulteration is criminal profit, and against the backdrop of having relatively cheap foodstuffs in Australia, there’s less drive for criminals to wish to come in and make a profit,” Annison said. “If you have relatively cheap beef, there’s no advantage to trying to substitute it with horse meat.”

Peter Day, director of compliance and enforcement at the NSW Food Authority, agrees, and says Australia’s geographical isolation is one of the main reasons why local manufacturers weren’t caught up in the scandals that their European counterparts were.

“I think we’re lucky in Australia because it’s a different situation to Europe, in many cases, because we’ve got a border. We don’t have a single marketplace and so we don’t import a lot of meat either. Generally, speaking, meat’s fairly cheap over here as well, so there’s a ready supply of cheap, manufacturing meat around,” Day says.

“The other issue is that a lot of companies are actually banned from importing meat products into Australia because of the Mad Cow issue. So only a very limited number of countries can import cooked meat into Australia.”

By and large, Australian manufacturers don’t import meat because financially it doesn’t make sense when we can more easily produce our own top quality, affordable and traceable meat products. We also have a very effective, thorough screening and testing process, says Day.

“We had a royal commission 20-plus years ago and since then AQIS (Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service) has been doing species testing on a lot of meat samples going out of the country to overseas markets, and domestic regulators, like ourselves, do routine surveillance programs. Last year we took 100 samples to see what we would pick up. You simply cant sample every single product, but you’re casting a net over it to make sure that no problems show up.”

So what did we learn?
In the wake of the horse meat scandal, and despite already having effective testing procedures in place, Day said many regulators will tighten up their systems even more.

“I think it was probably a bit of a wake up call to both regulators and the industry in general, looking at their current systems of detecting and trying to eliminate this type of thing from happening here. I know in NSW we had a program in place anyway and we looked at it and where necessary we’ve actually enhanced the program of testing.

“We do testing on cooked and raw meat samples for species. So we looked at things to make sure that we were covering everything. So, do we need to cover other areas that we weren’t normally covering? We were making sure we had access to labs and so on. We did a bit of a review to make sure that our program was still current given the information that was coming in from Europe,” he said.

“And we found that our system was fairly good in terms of the testing systems out there. But I think for Australian regulators there was a need for a review, to see how they were conducting surveillance operations.”

Day said he’s expecting more labs to be conducting species tests moving forward, especially because manufacturers now want to confirm, via routine sampling and as an assurance to supermarkets, that what they say they’re producing is exactly what they are producing.

Perhaps the most important lesson for manufacturers is the importance of monitoring your suppliers.

The AFGC’s Jeffrey Annison said while Australian companies are already quite good at this, it’s never something you can be complacent about.

“I think every time there’s a food safety incident, it’s a reminder that the manufacturers are very reliant on the integrity of their suppliers and they need to make sure that they can check on that through establishing strong relationships and agreements about product specifications and so forth,” he said.

Peter Day agrees, and is clear in his advice to manufacturers. “Audit your suppliers. Check your suppliers out. Have a specification sheet which stipulates what you require from them and then rest that the make sure what you want is what you’re getting."

Supermarkets hold manufacturers to very tight specifications and manufacturers need to be able to say – and prove – that what is on their label’s product is completely accurate.

European consumers have no doubt been left shaken and surely cynical on the food processing industry as a result of the horse meat scandal. But are Australian consumers aware of how protected Australia was throughout the whole ordeal? Will they be skeptical, albeit unnecessarily, of Australian products?

Day believes the biggest problem in Europe now is that well-known brands have been tarnished, and when consumer confidence is lost, it’s very hard to get back. The thorough testing and screening processes which Australia’s food manufacturing industry can boast should reassure consumers that they are indeed getting what they are asking for.

“I think Australian consumers probably don’t think a lot about where their food comes from until something like this happens. They don’t think about all the links involved in being a food manufacturer and [in getting a product] to a store freezer. This incident highlights the length of the food chain thesedays, from farm to factory. It heightens concerns by consumers out there of the system, but they can have confidence that it’s being dealt with and there are programs in place to look out for that sort of thing in Australia.”

image: www.custom-industrial-services.com

 

Is “Brogurt” the next big thing in dairy?

Is the world ready for male-focused yoghurt brands? At least one company in the US thinks so, so when will we see this marketing strategy come to Australia?

One of the things holding current yoghurts back is the view that the delicious dairy dessert isn't really for masculine men.

Although the industry has tried, with generic placement in the TV show Burn Notice featuring the affable hero spooning some of the delightful dairyness in-between (or even during) taking down a plethora of bad guys – all without breaking a sweat.

But our advertising doesn't reflect this, with most marketing squarely aimed at the healthy, happy female consumer (although dads feeding daughters is an up-and-coming marketing angle).

In comes Powerful Yoghurt, the newest brand from the US.

Screen-Shot-2013-03-19-at-9-28-16-AM.png

Lampooned on NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me and their food blog The Salt, it shows that despite the numerous health benefits of natural yoghurt, there are still some serious barriers to men accepting that  their masculinity will remain in-tact if they're seen eating yoghurt.

I think Powerful Yoghurt is on to something.

Although women still comprise more than 60 percent of the of the Australian daily natural yoghurt consumption, the increase in consumption by men is rapid, with a 40 percent jump in the proportion of men to women eating  yoghurt everyday. 

With eight percent of women, and 5.9 percent of men eating yoghurt every day, it looks to be a growing market, especially for the bros of society.

Men are increasingly worrying about their appearance, so to me it seems like a no-brainer for yoghurt manufacturers to start marketing their products as the "super food" they often are. After all, yoghurt helps to

  • Build muscle
  • Burn Fat, and
  • Improve Digestive health 

If yoghurt can help men "Find their inner abs" as Powerful Yoghurt claims, it would be wise for Australian dairy manufacturers to bring out a "brogurt", and quickly.

If you fancy taking a more in-depth look into Powerful Yoghurt and the reasoning behind the product's marketing, check out the video from our friends at foodbev.com below.

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24 hours with Masterol Foods

Food magazine recently launched its Industry Map, where we ask food manufacturing professionals to shed light on the trials and tribulations of their work. Here, Nathan Cater, managing director at Masterol Foods, which manufactures and distributes vegetable oils, processing aids and ingredients, takes our Q&A.

What are your primary roles and responsibilities in your job? Give us a day in your working life.
I’ve done most of the jobs here at one time or another, from working in the warehouse and in production through to sales, marketing and product development. My role now is mostly of a managerial nature. I contribute to the overall direction of the company, particularly in terms of product development for the different market segments we engage with.

I also help to ensure that Masterol's R&D function interacts well with sales and marketing.

Because I have a broad understanding of the systems and the way information flows through Masterol, I also have the role of ‘problem solver’ – a hat which directors at many small and medium sized companies have to wear! These problems often revolve around our manufacturing operations, such as identifying the best way to transition to larger batch sizes when sales of a product increase.

Other things I do on a daily basis include discussing what we need from suppliers and how we can work more closely with them, addressing our customers’ needs and providing them with technical support and advice on our products and how they are best used.

What training/education did you need for your job?
I’ve been in the food industry my whole working life, so it’s all I know. With regards to education – I have formal training in chemistry, management and information technology, but have developed a strong understanding of the technology behind anti-sticking, glazing and release agent products by simply spending years working hands-on in the industry.

How did you get to where you are today? Give us a bullet point career path.

  • Graduated university in 1999
  • Worked in the food industry throughout my years at university
  • Established Masterol Foods in 2009 to capitalise on the knowledge I gained throughout my studying years.

What tools and/or software do you use on a daily basis?
Spreadsheets, spreadsheets and more spreadsheets. We have a database management system which handles most of our day-to-day activities with regards to logistics and manufacturing. It implements full traceability of all raw materials from receipt at our facilities to their use in finished products through to when the finished product is delivered to our customers.

What is the one thing that you are most proud of in your professional life?
The people I work with. Without their support and commitment to our company and our products, we’d be fighting a losing battle. I believe many companies don’t have the right people in key positions. This causes a myriad problems, the sources of which may appear difficult to spot even from the inside. In my opinion, the source is often right at the beginning – they failed to recruit the right people. I’m very proud of the people I work with and what we achieve together.

Biggest daily challenge?
Time management. It’s very easy for me to get immersed in the details of one particular project and forget about other things I’d planned to do on a given day. Without a high level of attention to detail, some of the products we’ve developed might never have come to be – it’s a matter of finding a balance between what you want to do and what you have to do.

Biggest career challenge?
Getting new products off the ground – it’s unbelievably difficult. No matter what you want to do, there is almost always someone out there who has a head start. That moment when everything aligns and things start to snowball – I think most people fall before they make it that far. This is a constant challenge – it’s not one you conquer and then move on from. With new products comes new knowledge, new experiences, new customers and suppliers, and so on. Managing all of these while trying to get a new product off the ground is pretty intense.

What is your biggest frustration in your job?
I believe doing business in Australia is very difficult. This is due to a range of factors – things like our relatively small market size and low population density through to industry dynamics including the concentration of power in the hands of a small number of large and powerful competitors in many industries. This means achieving the economies of scale necessary to take on the ‘big boys’ is always going to be difficult. There are plenty of other factors too, such as the way business is treated by both sides of government at all levels. Our business environment is highly regulated.

What is the biggest challenge facing your business?
Innovation. High exchange rates mean Australian manufacturers are having difficulty competing with imports and for the same reason it’s tough to get export business too. Exchange rates used to make local manufacturing more attractive because they helped to offset the high cost of production and the high cost of doing business in Australia, but that’s not the case today. This is why innovation is so important for Australian manufacturers. I don’t believe it’s possible to build a strong manufacturing business in Australia without a constant focus on innovation. Build a better mousetrap, as the saying goes.

Is there anything else about your job you want Australia to know about?
Being in business is more daunting than it looks. It isn’t for the faint-hearted. Despite that, I’m passionate about Australian manufacturing and in particular, the food industry and our contribution to it.

If you would like to take part in Food mag's Industry Map, click here.

To read another Industry Map Q&A, click here.

 

Coke chokes the NT container deposit scheme

 

A reported 10 billion drink containers are thrown away in Australia every year. Many of these are recycled, but many end up in landfill, on roadsides and in waterways.

The danger posed to wildlife by plastic waste is well documented, as is the life of non-biodegradable waste in landfill or the landscape. Beverage containers comprised 38% of the waste collected on the 2012 Clean Up Australia Day. Despite these containers being recyclable, they are still ending up in our urban and rural landscapes.

A heightened awareness of waste and recycling has put a strong public focus on container deposit legislation (CDL) schemes as a means of reducing the amount of glass, plastic and aluminium going into landfill or the landscape.

The basis of CDL is that consumers pay a refundable deposit on drinks sold in recyclable containers, and can redeem the deposit by returning the container to a range of points, including retailers and recycling depots.

South Australia instigated a CDL scheme in 1975 with a refundable deposit of five cents on recyclable drink containers. The deposit was increased to ten cents in 2008. Over a number of years other states and territories have investigated the application of the scheme and, in an effort to address waste in the Northern Territory, the Territory government passed their own CDL scheme in 2011.

Public approval of the CDL scheme in South Australia is very high, at around 98% and there is considerable and growing support for similar schemes in the other states.

The waste stats demonstrate the scheme’s success in reducing plastic and glass litter: the 2012 Clean Up Australia Day Rubbish Report shows that plastics made up just 28% of total rubbish collected in South Australia, whereas in NSW and Victoria, where there is no CDL scheme, plastics amounted to 38% and 34% respectively. Similarly the proportion of glass collected in SA was about half that collected in NSW and Victoria.

After the introduction of the Northern Territory’s CDL scheme last year, multinational beverage giant, Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA), announced that it would mount a legal challenge against the scheme. The reason provided by the company was that it didn’t want to see Territory households pay up to 20 cents extra for drinks when the deposit was factored in along with the administrative charges for the scheme.

Such concern for struggling families by one of the world’s largest corporate giants was touching, in the same way as a crocodile’s concern for a lone swimmer in a Kakadu waterhole is touching.         

As well as Coca-Cola and its diet variations, CCA also owns Fanta, Mountain Dew, Lift, Sprite, Mother, Powerade, Pump water, Mount Franklin water and the Kirks and Becks brand drinks. Its share of the Australian soft drink market is around 56%, as well as 45% of the sports drink market and 25% of the bottled water market. At stake is not the household budgets of Territorians, but the profit margin of the company if consumers respond to a price rise by buying less of the product.

The legal grounds for the challenge was the Commonwealth Mutual Recognition Act 1992. The Act was passed in order to ensure that goods and services are provided in all state and territory jurisdictions under the same conditions.

The federal court found that as CCA is selling drinks in containers, the drinks, and not just the containers, are subject to the ten cent deposit. Therefore, as other states – with the exception of SA whose CDL is exempt under the Act as it was in operation prior to the passage of the Act – do not have CDL, then the Northern Territory’s scheme places a condition on drinks sold in that jurisdiction that does not exist elsewhere.

In the wake of the court decision, industrial sabotage activist group, Out Of Order, responded by putting “Out of Order” signs on CCA vending machines in all capital cities. This action has the potential to affect CCA’s profit margin far more than the implementation of CDL in Australia’s least populous jurisdiction.

Flickr/GrahamIX

Coca-Cola Amatil is a multinational corporation with an annual trading revenue of around $47 billion. The Northern Territory has a population of 233,000 and a GDP of around $16 billion per annum.

The Territory’s CDL scheme is hardly going to make a dent in CCA’s profits and the company knows it. The legal case against the Northern Territory’s waste reduction scheme is more about sending a message to other Australian states that may be considering a similar scheme.

The company’s tactic, however, may come unstuck next month when, as anticipated, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) begins steps towards adopting a plan for a nationwide CDL scheme that will see all states and territories introducing a similar scheme to that which SA has been using for four decades, thus removing the possibility for any legal challenge under the Commonwealth Mutual Recognition Act.

Robin Tennant-Wood does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

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

 

Food mag is on Facebook

In addition to our magazine, website and e-newsletters, Food magazine also is also busy sharing and liking on Facebook!

Check out our page and Like it to keep up-to-date with all the latest news and views in the food and beverage manufacturing industry. We'd also love for you to share your thoughts/ideas/exciting news on our page – it's a great way for you to connect with other industry members and keep abreast of what's happening in their world, and vice versa.

We also tweet, so follow us at @foodmagaus and join the conversation!

This is your chance to have your voice heard, so if you've got something to say, whether it's a rant or a rave, or a new product to plug, you know what to do!

 

Food mag awards in focus: Prepared Foods

The Food Magazine awards will return in 2013 and with entries closing on 24 April, now's your chance to have your product recognised by industry peers!

In this preview of the annual awards, we're looking at the Prepared Foods category, this year sponsored by Flavour Makers.

Products eligible for this category include commercially packaged foods that require some additions and can take two or more steps to create a meal.

Prepared Foods differ from Ready Meals as they are only components of a meal, rather than an entire meal.

Products that can be entered in this category include pasta sauces, relishes, powdered foods and spreads.

The entry process for this category is simple; all you need to do is submit details of your company and the product (name, website, address etc) as well as information on how the product is processed, its significance in the market, any details on export opportunities and what measures were taken to ensure food safety.

Images also need to be provided upon submission.

In last year's Food magazine awards, the Prepared Foods category went to Passage Foods for its Passage to Sri Lanka – Coconut and Cashew Chicken.

About the winner
The new Passage to Sri Lanka range has been developed by the in-house Indian/Sri Lankan chef after a gap in the market was realised for a genuine Sri Lankan flavoured product, with the result being a coconut and cashew chicken sauce.

Passage Foods has experienced success in Australia and overseas with 3500 stores stocking the range in America and proactive initiatives have helped achieve this success. "Passage Foods has been exporting for over six years now," Shaun Doutré, account manager explained.

"We had worked closely with Austrade to initially identify suitable export markets; this was followed by active engagement in national and international trade shows. At the same time we worked at identifying our competitors, sourcing distributors and presenting to buyers from large supermarket chains.  We now have significant market presence in the USA, New Zealand, UAE and Malaysia."  

Doutre said that when producing a long shelf life product it is vital to uphold health and safety standards whilst also maintaining the flavour of the product.

"It is imperative that products do not lose their flavour profiles, colour, and that the organoleptic properties are maintained," he said.

"First and foremost the goal, when initiating a product for Passage Foods, is to ensure that we create an authentic restaurant quality simmer sauce. From this base we then need to ensure that the product retains flavour/ colour and other organoleptic qualities. As the product is hot filled the PH levels are the crucial factor to ensuring the product maintains these qualities over shelf life. Our doy pouch packaging combined with our hot fill process ensures that we are able to maintain our long shelf life. "

For information and entry details, click here.

The 2013 Food Magazine Awards are proudly brought to you by Platinum sponsor Heat and Control. Other sponsors include Flavour Makers, Janbak, HACCP Australia, Kerry Ingredients, Newly Weds Foods, Tronics, APPMA, Earlee Products and Kurz.

 

Broaden your horizons at AUSPACK PLUS 2013

This year, Australia's largest processing machinery, materials and technology exhibition, AUSPACK PLUS, is returning to Sydney, presenting food manufacturers with an invaluable opportunity to network with other industry members and gain an insight into the latest and greatest developments in packaging.

Held at the Sydney Showground, Sydney Olympic Park, from 7 to 10 May, this year AUSPACK PLUS had to expand its venue space by 202sqm due to high exhibitor demand.

Visitors can expect to see over 1,100 brands and 240 exhibitors representing 13 countries, with 58 international exhibitors across more than 7,000sqm of floor space.

The event is owned and presented by the Australian Packaging and Processing Machinery Association (APPMA), and, once again,  a highlight of this year's event will be the AIP Technical Forum, which is taking on a 'Global Packaging Trends' theme and will include presentations from international speakers representing Brazil, Austria, India, South Africa, Indonesia and the United States.

Adding to this international focus will be the WorldStar Packaging awards, held on 9 May at the Novotel Sydney Olympic Park.

The WorldStar awards is one of the major events of the World Packaging Organisation (WPO) and highlights the best of the best in the international packaging industry.

This year the awards received 316 entries from 33 countries around the world. WorldStars are presented only to those packs which, having already won recognition in a national or regional competitions, are deemed by a panel of judges to be at the top of their game in regards to execution or innovation.

Ralph Moyle, national president of the Australian Institute of Packaging, said hosting the event is a major coup for Australia. "There will be an international contingent of WPO Board members and award winners from across the globe coming to Australia for this event and we would like to extend an invitation to the entire packaging community to be a part of this significant night," he said.

Yet another exciting event accompanying AUSPACK PLUS 2013 is the APPMA Awards of Excellence, announced on 8 May and sponsored by Midway Metals, PKN, Schenker and SMC.

Mark Dingley, Chairman, APPMA, the biennial Awards of Excellence are designed to recognise innovative and outstanding packaging and processing solutions.

“Companies that enter these biennial awards are recognised for their contribution and outstanding achievements against their peers within the wider packaging industry and we encourage everyone to enter,” Mr Dingley said.

Awards categories include Export Achievement Award, Design Achievement Award, Customer Partnership Award, the Imported Equipment Award, Best New Product Award and the APPMA Scholarship which seeks to reward a packaging engineer looking to further his/her education with a scholarship to enrol in the AIP Diploma in Packaging Technology, an internationally recognised and accredited course.

And if that's not enough, visitors to this year's AUSPACK PLUS will have the opportunity to speak face-to-face with thousands of industry professionals from an array of industry sectors – all under the one roof. 

These include:

tna Australia
This packaging business will be demonstrating its latest packaging solutions at the event, including its 3ci high speed vertical form fill and seal packaging machine.

According to Luigi di Palma, general manager at tna Australia, this machine provides up to a 30 percent improvement in performance in both output and reduction in rejects and achieves throughput rates of up to 150bpm.

 

"Visitors will also experience our innovative seasoning system, the tna intelli-flavOMS 3c. A complete, one-piece solution for both wet and dry seasoning and flavouring, the tna intelli-flavOMS 3c delivers exceptional performance and provides even coverage at throughput rates of 100 to 500kg per hour for a wide variety of applications," he said.

"Technical experts will also be on-stand to demonstrate our tna rofloHM 3 horizontal motion conveyor, which smoothly distributes goods to minimise losses and breakages and deliver the highest quality end products."

Emrich Packaging Machinery
As a provider of packaging equipment and bagging machines, Emrich will be using AUSPACK PLUS 2013 to show off its PFM ZC1 integrated multi-head weigher and bagging machine.

The PFM ZC1 integrated multi-head weigher and bagging machine is designed for mid-speed duties up to 80 bags per minute and targets products such as snacks, confectionery, pet food, granular products, biscuits and pasta.

Also on display will be Emrich's Adco 15D105 horizontal hand load cartoner, designed for easy conversion to a fully automatic barrel cam machine and available to run in either continuous and intermittent mode.

Swiss Pack
In the past Swiss Pack has concentrated only on its packaging materials; however they've now branched out into packaging machines and will focus on both in Sydney.

Brendan Yee, general manager, Flexible Division, Swiss Pack, said, "In addition our expertise with the associated technical materials such as films, pouches and boxes means that we can offer a true end-to-end solution. Our packaging machines are suitable for all solids, liquids and powders, such as VFFS, mini pouch packing machines, coffee packing machines, flow wrappers, shrink tunnels, rotary pouch packing machines and carton packaging solutions."

 

Click here to read about A&D's new checkweigher product, launching in Australia at AUSPACK PLUS 2013.

 

Moving with the times: King Island Dairy

After a seven year hiatus, the renowned King Island Dairy brand has kicked off 2013 with two new product releases, bolstered by the more refined cheese palette of today's consumer.

While many manufacturers might think that in order to resonate in the mind of today's fickle consumers they need to continually launch new products, King Island Dairy advocates for innovating when the time's right.

Naomi Crisante, cheese ambassador at King Island Dairy, told Food magazine, "King Island Dairy has quite a range of products and they did go through a bit of a process of looking at what products are winners and what are the lower performers, I suppose. Every manufacturer will go through that process. They're also not in the space of just doing new product development for new product development's sake – even though retailers often ask for that.

"It's about making sure that they're releasing when it's right and for the right market. It's not that this process took seven years," she said.

The two new products are the King Island Dairy Furneaux Double Cream (above), available in all grocery stores (Coles from September) and Thomas Dux grocers; and the Black Label Huxley Washed Rind, also available at Thomas Dux, in delis and various foodservice venues across the country.

Getting both cheeses on the shelf has been a labour a love, says King Island Dairy's head cheesemaker Ueli Berger.

"Over a year ago we started playing with the Furneaux. We weren't comfortable with the first batch so we adjusted things until we actually found a process we were comfortable with. Then we had to do all the shelf-life trials to make sure it's still good at its best before date, and then we had to adjust some things again. So it actually takes a long time to get a product to market and to be comfortable with it," he said.

"The Huxley was even more work because it's a bit different again. It took us even longer to get it to the stage where we were really comfortable and we felt that we had something quite different."

The Huxley – King Island Dairy's latest addition to its Black Label range of artisan cheeses (see pic below) – is an example of the current trend in Australia where consumers still want affordable cheeses, but are keen to look beyond the popular camemberts and bries.

Washed rind cheeses have always been quite polarising, with their strong flavour and aroma proving disconcerting from less adventurous eaters.

King Island Dairy's Huxley, however, was designed to be a crowd-pleaser. Made without mould, it has a distinctive, but not overpowering flavour and an orange coloured rind thanks to the blend of selected cultures, cloth-washed over the cheese by hand during the maturation process.

"With our Huxley, if you have a look, it's not sticky on the surface. It's actually quite dry, so when you touch it it's not off-putting like some of the other washed rinds, where if you touch it you have the smell on your fingers all day. This one is quite dry and we wanted something that people will be able to pick up and the smell isn't overpowering, but still has a nice, complex flavour.

"That's what we tried to achieve so we changed the texture quite a bit to make it a semi-soft instead of a soft cheese," said Berger.

"Going forward with this washed rind, considering the texture that we achieved, I think we have quite a big chance to use different things like red wine and peppercorns on the surface … and still keep the nice texture there. I think we have opportunities to use the recipe and make two or three quite different cheeses. We have the base now, so we can jump forward from there."

Attention to detail
Not only do King Island Dairy's cheeses need to pass Berger's critical eye and fulfill an obvious need in the market before they can be introduced to the general public, they also, of course, need to meet strict food safety requirements.

Earlier this year fellow cheese manufacturer, Jindi, recalled more than 100 of its products following a Listeria outbreak which saw the death of three people and led to one NSW woman suffering a miscarriage.

This incident, according to Berger, only cemented the importance of a vigilant screening and testing process.

"Our testing regime is stricter than regulation actually requires," he said. "We've looked at everything we do since the Jindi incident, but we're definitely doing more than we have to. We feel like we have to do that to be 100 percent safe."

Every batch of cheese is tested before it goes to the market, and cannot be released before the test results come back with the all-clear.

"It's an expensive exercise but it's not expensive compared to having the problems that Jindi have had. So it's money well invested, I think," he said.

While admitting he's concerned that Jindi's recent problems might affect the consumers' perception of the entire cheese industry, Berger believes King Island Dairy's well-established relationship with its customers and trusted reputation will make all the difference.

"People know us not just as a good cheese in terms of flavour, but as a safe cheese as well … We're definitely worried that people might say 'Oh, soft cheeses, we're not touching them.' That won't be good for anyone. But hopefully our brand is strong enough and people have enough faith in us," he said.

Where to from here?
The best way forward, according to cheese ambassador, Naomi Crisante, is to capitalise on and continue to develop the consumers' maturing cheese palette, and to keep King Island Dairy front of mind while doing so.

"I've been in the cheese industry for 20 years and when I started we were very much processed cheese eaters, but we've moved to natural cheddars now and more to vintage cheddars, for example. We've never had the variety of specialty cheeses available in local supermarkets that we do now. You can go in and grab a brie, a washed rind, blue cheese, camembert, you can get hybrids – there's something for everyone. Australians do like something different, they want to try something new, which is where these two new releases sit in really well," she said.

Developing new products where necessary and helping to educate the consumer on the variety of cheeses on the market and how best to serve them is crucial, Crisante adds.

"The manufacturer needs to take control to make sure that the information is consistent across consumers and foodservice. It's an ongoing education process all the time."

For King Island Dairy, this education process will involve various touchpoints including tastings, social media activity, events and advertising campaigns.

"It's just about making sure that every touch point with the brand is educating consumers as well as promoting what is core to the brand – the most beautiful, indulgent product that comes from this tiny little island in the middle of Bass Stait," she said.

"There's a good story with great heart behind this brand. It's more than just a brand."

To see photos from Food mag's visit to Margan Winery, to celebrate  King Island Dairy's new releases, head to our Facebook page.

Fast-track to accurate checkweighing

A new checkweigher from A&D Australasia will allow smaller operators to upgrade their production line to cater for increasing demand. Isaac Leung writes.

With a new consumer focus on organic and fresh foods and exotic ingredients, supermarkets are increasingly turning to small-to-medium sized Australian food manufacturers for their products.

While these contracts are lucrative, they also increase the demands on the manufacturers’ processes, necessitating faster production while still maintaining accurate portioning.

Accurate weighing of products is critical: it ensures manufacturers are not giving away too much of their product, and at the same time, are not short-changing their customers, which can lead to loss of contracts and fines.

According to Tom Armstrong, managing director of A&D Australasia, many smaller players in the industry tend to start by having operators manually sort product into packaging, and using static scales to weigh units individually.

However, this labour-intensive process can be costly, and slow. The obvious next step when scaling up operations would be to transition to an automatic process line and checkweigher system.

Fast and accurate
Checkweighers weigh products that are moving on a conveyor belt at very high speeds. A&D’s latest checkweigher, to be launched at AUSPACK PLUS 2013, for example, can weigh up to 200 0.5kg products per minute at a 0.1g resolution.

But with the speed of the checkweighers also comes issues with noise and vibration. These can obscure the actual weight of the package.

“As the package goes across the checkweighers, all sorts of variables are fed back to the indicator: the belt moving, the shaking, wind et cetera,” Armstrong explained.

An alternative approach
While competing checkweighers on the market tend towards preventing these variables by engineering very rigid and expensive mechanical structures, and dampening the loadcell, A&D’s approach uses the Japanese company’s expertise in analogue to digital conversion and digital signal processing (DSP) to quickly and accurately filter out the variables.

“For the last ten years, A&D has focused on digital signal processing, which is essentially looking at the variables coming from something under test, monitoring and measuring and simulating scenarios based on that information,” Armstrong said.

Previously, this DSP capability was used for testing and simulating automotive engines in Japan, but its application to the checkweigher means the electronics within the unit can “see” the process in slow motion, successfully isolating the actual weight of the package in under one-third of a second, as it speeds through on a conveyor belt at 120m a minute.

The flat pack advantage
Armstrong says the relaxed mechanical requirements of the A&D checkweigher poses many advantages to food manufacturers.

With an entry level price, small-to-medium sized food manufacturers can quickly upgrade to an automated production line without a massive initial outlay, but Armstrong says the specifications of the product will appeal to larger manufacturers as well.

Delivery, installation and maintenance are also made easier and cheaper.

“With conventional, rigid checkweighers, they come in big crates, and expensive technicians are needed for installation,” Armstrong said. “Our technology allows A&D to deliver it flat-packed, to be assembled on-site.”

“It’s all about reducing costs to the customer. Rather than have to have specialists travel out, with a big crate, this checkweigher can go in the back of someone’s car, and one of our retail partners can go out and do the installation.”

According to A&D Australasia, its sister company A&D TechEng can also help during installation if integration of the checkweigher with a PLC/SCADA system is needed. A&D TechEng is an approved Siemens Solution Partner and Rockwell Recognised System Integrator.

The checkweigher is designed to require minimal maintenance, and can be serviced by local weighing service companies without requiring special service tools or equipment, making it cost effective to run in the long term.

Australia will be the first country to get the new A&D checkweigher, when it is launched at stand 200 at AUSPACK PLUS 2013.

 

Soy versus dairy: which milk is better for you?

There are good reasons why people may want to swap soy with dairy milk. The carbon, water and phosphate footprint of soy milk is a fraction of the latter. But the main reason for the increasing popularity of soy milk seems to be health concerns, such as inflammatory bowel disease and lactose intolerance.

First, let’s look at what these milks are. The milk from a cow (or goat, or sheep) is complete food for the growth and development of a young animal. It contains all the essential amino acids (the protein building blocks that your body is unable to make for itself) as well as a complex mixture of fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals including calcium, phosphate and vitamin B12.

A soy bean is also complete food – for the growth and development of a soy plant seedling. The nutritional needs of plants are obviously quite different from those of animals, and accordingly, the nutritional profile of unadulterated soy milk is very different from that of animal milks.

Fresh soy milk, made from grinding and then straining soaked dried soy beans, has less fat and carbohydrate than animal milks, and only a small amount of calcium. And it’s missing some of the vitamins present in animal milks as well.

The protein content of soy milk is similar to cow’s milk, and all the essential amino acids are present but in smaller amounts than in cow’s milk. Because it’s plant food, soy milk contains small amounts of fibre, and twice as much folate as animal milks.

 

The milk from a cow (or goat or sheep) is complete food for the growth and development of a young animal. jenny downing

 

The contrast between the two products is significantly reduced when comparing the commonly-available commercial brands of soy and cow’s milk. Both types of milk are heat-treated as part of production, to destroy bacteria and enzymes that may be harmful to health or shorten shelf life. They’re also nutritionally similar.

Supermarket soy milk products are mostly made from soy protein isolate powder (rather than ground whole soy beans), reconstituted with water and adjusted with oil and often sugar, to bring the fat and carbohydrate content to levels comparable with full-cream cow’s milk. A similar vitamin and mineral content is achieved by adding vitamins (including B12) and calcium.

Once this is done, the main differences between the products are in the type (rather than the amount) of carbohydrate, protein and fat.

The carbohydrate in cow’s milk is lactose, the milk sugar, which is digested by the enzyme lactase. In most animals (including human ones), the amount of lactase in the intestine naturally decreases after weaning. Once this has happened, milk cannot be digested properly, causing flatulence or diarrhoea.

In humans who continue to consume lactose-rich dairy products throughout their lives, lactase enzymes are maintained in the gut. But some unlucky individuals become lactose intolerant and, for them, soy milk is a useful alternative as it contains no lactose.

For everyone else, though, lactose has some advantages over other sugars because it has a very low glycaemic index. This means that it is released slowly into the blood, avoiding abrupt spikes in blood glucose levels.

 

Soy beans are the complete food for the growth and development of a soy plant seedling. Quinn Dombrowski

 

Both soy and dairy milk are good sources of protein, with different health advantages. Soy protein appears to have its own protective effect on heart health, possibly due to its content of phytochemicals (beneficial plant substances). Some of these include phytoestrogens, whose weak oestrogen-like action can help soothe hormonal swings during menopause.

Cow’s milk consists of two proteins, casein and whey, both of which are popular among body-builders as effective muscle-building proteins. In controlled diets, dairy foods appear to promote fat loss, possibly due to the effect of their calcium content in conjunction with the dairy proteins and other substances in milk. This effect is not seen when the same nutrients are consumed as supplements.

The fat content is similar in both cow and soy milk, and low fat or “light” varieties are available for both. The type of fat in full-cream cow’s milk is butterfat, high in saturated fat, while soybean oil is mostly polyunsaturated. The fats added to soy milk are usually canola or sunflower oil, again rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. This means that soy milk is a source of “good” fats.

The Heart Foundation recommends we avoid saturated fats in order to control our cholesterol levels, but interestingly full-fat dairy foods don’t appear to increase the risk of heart disease in the same way as other sources of saturated fat. This may be due to the protective effect of other complex elements in milk (such as the proteins or minerals) or the unsaturated fats present.

Fresh, raw soy milk and fresh, raw animal milk are very different foods. But in the form usually purchased in the supermarket, there’s little difference in their nutritional profile. So rest assured that if you choose to replace some, or all, of your dairy milk intake with soy milk for environmental reasons, you will not be nutritionally disadvantaged.

Suzie Ferrie does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

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

Soy good: dairy alternatives make inroads

Dairy-free alternatives to regular milk products are experiencing significant growth across the globe.

While dairy alternative drinks accounted for a relatively small five percent of the total dairy launches recorded by Innova Market Insights in the 12 months to the end of October 2012, the market is definitely growing.

Soy milk is leading the dairy alternative race, representing 78 percent of dairy-free launches either as a main or secondary ingredient. Next in line are plant-based alternatives including cereals such as rice, oats and barley as well as nuts like almond, hazelnuts and walnuts.

The second most popular ingredient – albeit a long way behind soy – is rice with 17 percent of introductions. Oats had 11 percent and almonds came in with 10 percent of introductions in the 12 months to the end of October.

Despite its fourth place ranking, almond milk products have been labelled as the ones to watch by Innova Market Insights, jumping from three percent in 2005 to its current 10 percent.

Most dairy alternative beverages use health as a marketing platform and point of difference, with three-quarters of launches recorded by Innova featuring a health claim of some kind.

The most popular health claims relate to lactose-free offerings (over 35 percent), organic ingredients, low cholesterol content and additive- or preservative- free content.

Health is definitely a focal point for the marketing team at Sanitarium, which makes the So Good dairy free range of products.

Marketing general manager, Daniel Derrick, told Food magazine many consumers prefer how they feel after consuming dairy-free products, regardless of whether or not they medically require them.

"I think yesteryear was all about the [dairy] intolerance and it was almost a medical approach to milk, but thesedays many consumers are just wanting a wellbeing beverage, so they want products that give them all the goodness of a glass of milk without the bad stuff. So non-dairy beverages are free of cholesterol, they're free of saturated fat, they're free of lactose. That way it just allows people to enjoy their favourite breakfast without the guilt. It allows people to go back to enjoying what milk gives them.

"There's nothing wrong with milk, necessarily, but there are better alternatives," he said.

Derrick said two key factors have contributed to the growth in dairy-free drinks: technological developments which have improved the beverages' taste, and a rise in the number of people saying they feel better after drinking dairy-free beverages.

"When people drink non-dairy milk a lot of them are quite surprised at how light they feel. There's an effect that dairy has on a lot of people where it gives them congestion or bloating. And previously I think it's fair to say that non-dairy milks didn't taste great, but thesedays a lot of the technologies employed allow us to have really good tasting non-dairy milk," he said.

Almond milk is responsible for a wide number of consumers making the switch to dairy-free, Derrick says, with one in five Australian households stocking non-dairy milk in their fridge. And it's a similar story in the US where almond milk has been the most popular non-dairy milk for the past two years.

"Non-dairy milk is still an evolving niche. It's certainly still emerging, but what's helping emergence is the introduction of other non-dairy milks such as almond milk. So if you try our unsweetened almond milk it has 55 percent less calories than light milk. So it tastes great, it works well on cereal, but if you want to enjoy your cereal, enjoy your coffee, enjoy your drink without the calories, you can with our unsweetened almond milk," Derrick said.  

"I think the current trajectory will continue, where people discover how to offer really great tasting, healthy alternatives to dairy.

Not only are dairy-free drinks becoming more popular for consumers – regardless of whether or not they're lactose intolerant – Derrick says more and more men are embracing dairy-free.

"I think more people are discovering that very normal people can enjoy non-dairy milk. It's not the domain of people that have a medical need. This is a product that has universal appeal."        

Click here to see a range of dairy-free drinks available across the globe.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Food mag awards in focus: Dairy

The Food Magazine awards will return in 2013 and with entries closing on 24 April, now's your chance to have your product recognised by industry peers!

In this preview of the annual awards, we're looking at the Dairy category, which is sponsored by Tronics.

Products eligible for this category include those that comprise cow, milk, buffalo or goat milk as a main element. Products that can be entered include cheese, milk, ice cream, yoghurt and custard.

The entry process for this category is simple; all you need to do is submit details of your company and the product (name, website, address etc) as well as information on how the product is processed, its significance in the market, any details on export opportunities and what measures were taken to ensure food safety.

Images also need to be provided upon submission.

In last year's Food magazine awards, the Dairy award went to five:am Life for its Organic Yoghurt

About the winner
Lauren Kempler from five:am says that being organic is a key part of the brand and its success.

"Eating organic is in a way the essence to our brand identity. The concept behind five:am is one of 'conscious deliciousness;' that means that we are conscious of hand-picking the finest, organic and all natural ingredients for all of our recipes," she said. 

"We produce our superior tasting yoghurt with a clear conscience – knowing that not only is the product good for you but that every aspect of five:am's production preserves the environment. This means our cows are free to roam, that they, and the fruits used are free from all things nasty (hormones, pesticides, antibiotics…) Eating organic is key to a healthy lifestyle."

David Prior, the creator of the five:am brand has had extensive experience in the food manufacturing industry as the co-founder of Baroda Manufacturing, he was responsible for the growth of the business, overseeing its expansion from a start up into one of Australia's fastest growing businesses within 10 years. Boasting an annual turnover of $25 million, Prior led the company's acquisition by VISY Packaging in 2007 before starting five:am a little over two years ago.

"Organic and preservative free, five:am yoghurt is one of the few 'free-from' foods you will find in the mass market.  There's no two ways about it.  Our product is as good as you can get.  The way we make it is superior to other products on the market, which is evident in the taste and better still, it is purely organic," David said.

Sustainability-wise, the production process aims to minimise energy and waste as much as possible. Packaging is all made from one material and designed to ensure the least detriment to the environment while still being 100 per cent recyclable.

"We started our pack design process by selecting a material with a relatively low carbon footprint. We then designed the container sizes to get the best use of the pallet, meaning less trucks are required to get our product to you," said Lauren. 

The brand has also engaged the public by offering samples in supermarkets, school fetes and the Royal Easter show as well as utilising social media.

"We've managed to increase distribution dramatically, keep up communication with our loyal Facebook community and are thrilled to launch our new iPhone app in our 'it's about time' campaign in the next few months," Lauren said.

David plans to expand both globally and in terms of product range in the near future, noting the introduction of organic drinking yoghurts and baby friendly options as avenues the company will explore.

For information and entry details, click here.

The 2013 Food Magazine Awards are proudly brought to you by Platinum sponsor Heat and Control. Other sponsors include Flavour Makers, Janbak, HACCP Australia, Kerry Ingredients, Newly Weds Foods, Tronics, APPMA, Earlee Products and Kurz.