AIP recognises technologists

Packaging technologists who have made a significant contribution to their specific packaging field and to the wider packaging industry, were announced at the 2012 Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP) National Conference.

Founders Award

The Founders Award has only been awarded six times in the last 50 years and is only presented to those who give outstanding performances which in a real way enhances the profession of Packaging Technology.

The 7th Awardee of the AIP Founders Award is Llewelyn Stephens, FAIP, Senior Packaging Technologist, LION.

The honour was awarded for Llew’s commitment and significant contribution to the promotion and application of packaging technology and education in industry.

AIP Life Member

Life Membership of the AIP is designed to recognise those long-standing members who have volunteered their time and passion to the continued growth of the Institute.

Life Members are people who continually go above and beyond for the AIP and for the betterment of the packaging industry.

This year the AIP has one Life Member, Richard Mason MAIP.

Richard continues to assist the NSW Division even in his retirement and has who worked in the packaging industry for over forty years.

He is on the national membership grading committee, the NSW branch committee and helps the national office on a continued basis.

AIP Fellows

The grade of Fellow is the highest professional recognition awarded to AIP Members by their peers and is designed to recognise the significant and sustained contribution these people have made to the technology, science or application to packaging in the industry. The AIP upgraded two members for 2012; Dr Roya Khalil, Senior Packaging Technologist, SPC Ardmona and Nola Porteus, Paper & Board Laboratory Manager, VISY Technology & Innovation Centre.

APPMA scholarship winner announced

The winner of the Australian Packaging and Processing Machinery Association (APPMA) scholarship program, consisting of a place in a year-long Diploma in Packaging Technology, was announced during the 2012 AIP National Conference at the Marriott Surfers Paradise.

The APPMA scholarship program has been running for four years and Chairman Mark Dingleyannounced the 2012 APPMA scholarship winner, Anna Roland, Technical Officer, Betta Foods Australia at the official dinner.

“The APPMA has awarded Anna Roland a scholarship to undertake a Diploma in Packaging Technology,” Dingley said.

“Anna has had the opportunity to work within the food and packaging industries and has completed various projects including assisting in film sealing which was her first exposure to the complexities involved in designing and implementing successful packaging.

“During the judging it was obvious that she has made a sustained effort and commitment to her studies to date and has gained the support and confidence of her employer and recognition of her professional aspirations.”

Roland said she was surprised by the win and looked forward to the opportunities it would bring.

“Winning the APPMA Scholarship gives me the opportunity to develop my understanding in both the design and practical aspects of packaging which without this help would take a lot longer to save up and begin,” she said.

“I am hoping that the learnings from the Diploma in Packaging Technology will provide greater support to the production floor and in the development of new products by our marketing and technical teams.

“In the short term, saving time detecting causes of packaging defects and reducing risk associated with product development and in the long term, laying a foundation of technical knowledge to build on as I contribute to product development and improvement.

“In a few years I hope that I will continue to be learning and challenged every day to use all the skills I have developed, and hopefully see the fruits of my current role in improving GMP, process improvement and implementing new products.” she said.

Nestlé working to educate Ivory Coast communities to end child labour

Nestlé has officially confirmed it is involving communities in the Ivory Coast in a new effort to reduce child labour, following a Fair Labor Association (FLA) report from November 2011.

Following the release of the FLA report, which included accusations that children are employed on cocoa farms that supply to its factories, Nestlé announced it would conduct an investigation into the presence of child labour in its business.

Nestlé partnered with FLA, a non-profit organisation that works with large companies to improve working conditions at various levels of the supply chain.

Nestlé has also said that it will work with its partner, the International Cocoa Initiative, a foundation that works with the cocoa industry, civil society and trade unions, to set up a new monitoring and remedy scheme recommended by the FLA.

Nestlé announced in a media release last week that the aim of the partnerships is to involve communities in the Ivory Coast in “a new effort to prevent the use of child labour in cocoa-growing areas by raising awareness and training people to identify children at risk, and to intervene where there is a problem.”

 “The use of child labour in our cocoa supply chain goes against everything we stand for,” José Lopez, Nestlé’s Executive Vice President for Operations, said.

“As the FLA report makes clear, no company sourcing cocoa from the Ivory Coast can guarantee that it doesn’t happen, but what we can say is that tackling child labour is a top priority for our company.”

An effective strategy to eliminate the problem of child labour in the Ivory Coast needs to address and change the attitudes and perceptions of those in the cocoa supply chain and the communities where they live, the FLA report said.

“Nestlé does not own or operate farms in the Ivory Coast, but is well positioned to make a positive impact on the livelihoods of workers in the cocoa supply chain due to its leverage with its suppliers and the volume of cocoa beans it procures,” the FLA report said.

Some of the measures put in place include a monitoring and remediation scheme to be trialled in 40 communities covered by two co-operatives of cocoa farms during the 2012 cocoa harvest, with plans to include 20 more co-operatives by 2016.

This would mean about 600 communities would be involved, and would begin to change some of the attitudes.

Victoria failing on alcohol policies: Auditor-General

The number of alcohol-related assaults in Victoria have risen rose by almost since 2001, while the number of ambulance attendances to deal with incidents related to alcohol more than tripled.

The state’s Auditor-General, Dr Peter Frost, has called on the government to act on alcohol-related harm, as he releases the findings.

The Effectiveness of Justice Strategies in Preventing and Reducing Alcohol-Related Harm report compared data from 2000-01 to 2010-11, and the shocking statistics have revealed the current government policies are not working.

According to the report, the Department of Justice had put $67 million towards the problem of alcohol abuse in Victoria since 2008, but with very little impact.

Frost believes there is a lack of whole‑of‑government policy for the treatment of alcohol and its position in society.

He said poorly chosen and evaluated initiatives have resulted in inconsistent liquor licensing processes and legislation in the state, and labelled the Department of Justice’s alcohol policy initiatives “largely fragmented, superficial, and reactive”.

Frost wants significant changes made to how the government approaches strategy development, licensing and enforcement, and says that without such changes, the chances of making any noticeable impact on reducing alcohol-related harm is unlikely.

“Unfortunately, steps taken to date in developing the new alcohol and drug strategy, which is currently still in draft, suggest that opportunities for meaningful change may again be missed,” Frost said in the report.

Whispering sweet nothings: the evolution of the confectionary industry

Willy Wonka was really onto something with his candy factory.

Not only did he realise that making confectionary will bring a smile to the faces of those who eat it – hell, it will get a bedridden man dancing around like he’s Patrick Swayze at the mere idea of it – but he was also an innovator.

Yes, you read that right, this article is singing the praises of Willy Wonka (“If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it, anything you want to, do it…wanta change the world? There's nothing toooo it”) because confectionary is a beautiful thing.

It is one of the most innovative, creative and interesting industries, filled with people just like Willy Wonka, who unfortunately don’t have his chocolate factory, but on the upside do have his imagination and passion for invention.

“Australia has a very good confectionary industry, we have great products and some really good marketing and there are some fantastic smaller brands bubbling away which is a great thing,” Anne Barrington, Product Manager at Keith Harris Flavours & Colours, Bronson & Jacobs told Food Magazine.

“There are some really great gourmet items coming up through the really boutique brands.”

Three dimensional confectionary

The confectionary industry is always expanding, becoming more creative and experimenting with different flavours.

“The main trends we’re seeing are in the chocolate and gummy lolly markets at the moment, which are both pretty dynamic,” she told Food Magazine.

“We’re seeing a lot of sensory things coming through that give you multi dimensional textures and flavours, like the tingling cooling effect and fruit pieces coming through.

“Things that are giving the consumer almost a three dimensional experience with a products are certainly being seen in the chocolate market, which is really tapping into that gourmet part of the market and very much capitalising on very good media on antioxidants with the dark chocolate. 

Cadbury’s Marvellous Creations, which combines a number of different textures, flavours and experiences in one mouthful, launched this month, bringing home Barrington’s point about the increase in sensory experiences in the confectionary market.

“Marvellous Creations was developed in response to Australians telling us they want a chocolate experience to share as part of the family occasion, which is fun, magically exciting and unexpected,” Ben Wicks, General Manager Chocolate, Kraft Foods, told Food Magazine.

“We identified a real opportunity to create a product that is ideal for family sharing and brings everyone together at the end of the day.

“We know that families love the occasional surprise and delight in the unexpected. Marvellous Creations is the ideal way to bring a moment of unexpected joy in the everyday.”

The Marvellous Creations range offers consumers three variations, which may seem like strange combinations at first, but have been met with intrigue in the consumer market.

There’s the peanut, toffee and cookie combination, the jelly and Crunchie bits blend and the jelly, popping candy and beanies offering, all covered in famous Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate.

“We tested a number of different flavour combinations with consumers, and had overwhelming positive response to these,” Wicks explained.

“All three variants are performing extremely well, however Jelly Popping Candy Beanies is proving to be particularly popular after just four weeks on shelves,” Wicks told Food Magazine.

The strangest of combinations

Barrington explained that often, combinations of flavours that might sound odd or a little off-putting, in fact turn out to be very popular.

“Certainly the celebrity chef’s and the food shows are bringing a lot of interest into flavours and how they can work together, which means a lot of consumers are more willing to try new things,” she said.

“What we’re also seeing is a lot of different flavour trends coming through, we’re seeing savoury flavours coming into chocolate, thinks like bacon and lime and salt, salted caramel.

“We’re talking about pretty gourmet boutique brands here, but often what we see is that these things bubble away in the boutique market for a while and then it hits the mainstream once it has been accepted and received by consumers.

“It’s how the consumer accepts those new flavours, and often the gourmet boutique brands are the testing ground for new flavours.

“We’re seeing spices coming into chocolate and even into the gum lolly market, as well as some cinnamon and herbs even!

“Herbs and spices are pretty new, but people are familiar with new things coming into chocolate, we’ve seen some floral flavours, like rose. as well.

And while the confectionary industry often seems to stand on its own and march to the beat of its own drum, Barrington explained to Food Magazine that it is not actually as isolated you may think.

“There confectionary industry also often looks to the beverage markets to see some of the flavour trends going on there, because there is quite a lot of alignment,” she said.

“You might see a lot of berry flavours making their way into the beverage market and being very popular and them confectionary makers might try them in their products.

“One of the biggest trends is the expansion of berries of all types, cherry, blackberry, blueberry.

Food scientists and confectionary experts are always hard at work trying to perfect the flavours available to consumers, ensuring they are as realistic as possible.

“There will always be the favourite flavours, which are the basic flavours in confectionary; raspberry, vanilla, lime, but a lot of those flavours have gotten a  lot more sophisticated in their profiles and particular in the flavour experience, they are much truer to type nowadays,” Barrington said.

“Twenty years ago, mango flavour was what they determined mango to be, which was actually nothing like what a mango tasted like.

“Now that mangoes are so readily available and so popular here, the flavour is more true to the fruit, because it has to be.”

How flavours are changing

Beyond the creativity of the industry, and the seemingly endless combinations thought up by confectionary producers, Barrington told Food Magazine the biggest change has not been about adding things, but rather removing.

She’s talking about artificial colours and flavours, which have almost ceased to exist in not only the confectionary industry, but throughout much of the food sector.

“The biggest change across all sectors has been the natural flavours in products aimed at children,” she said.

“Twenty years ago I would say the bulk of flavours were artificial, or synthetic.

“So absolutely, the natural flavours have expanded.

“Back then, the availability to raw flavours was poor but over the last eight to 10 years, the situation has reversed and the major developments in the industry are focused on natural flavours.”

Barrington said greater understanding of the impacts of additives on health has led to widespread developments and improvements to how the flavours are colours are made.

“Now we have a lot more access to natural flavouring materials, whereas before it was very difficult.

“There is a code for how it is determined and there are very strict laws around natural flavouring and labelling your product as such.

“FSANZ [Food Standards Australia New Zealand]has changed the terminology so it is now referred to as a ‘synthetic’ flavour, rather than artificial.

The Australian confectionary industry follows the International Organisation of the Flavour Industry (IOFI) Code of Practice to ensure the health, quality and ingredients of products.

The health factor

While the enjoyment of confectionary cannot be understated, the industry is, understandably, scrutinised as the rates of obesity and obesity-related diseases rise.

In a move sure to upset chocoholics everywhere – but perhaps please their doctors – Mars announced plans in February to stop shipping chocolate bars that exceed 250 calories per portion.

It will mean the king sized chocolate bars made by the confectionary giant, including Snickers, M&M’s, Mars, Milky Way and Dove will effectively be unavailable by the end of 2013.

Even a regular sized Snickers contains 280 calories, but the company advises that it includes three serving sizes.

A king-sized Snickers contains 510 calories.

The family sized blocks of chocolate produced by the company will still be available, as they are intended to be shared.

Some critics came out swinging, accusing Mars of reducing chocolate size to save money on expensive cocoa, but the company said in a statement that it is another move by the company to create healthier products for its consumers.

The company has previously announced aims to reduce sodium levels in all Mars products by 25 per cent from 2007 levels, stop marketing chocolate products directly to children under 12 and it also started displaying calorie counts on the front of packages, eliminating trans fat and reducing saturated fat.

"Mars has a broad-based commitment to health and nutrition, and this includes a number of global initiatives," the company said in a statement.

Initiatives like Mars’ are increasing fast, but not as fast as people’s waistlines.

Of the most pressing concern is the rapidly increasing occurrences of childhood obesity, and as such, there have been calls from medical associations and parenting groups to have all advertising of junk food to children stopped.

A report in May found that children are seeing 60 per cent less junk food advertising during their television programs, following suggestions from the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) that the practise should be stopped, and calls from health groups to ban ads aimed at those under 12.

In 2009 the AFGC suggested that high sugar, fat and salt (HFSS) foods should not be advertised during television programs aimed at children.

Following the suggestion, however, HFSS advertisements aimed at children did not decrease, but rather in some instances actually increased.

The AFGC maintains this rise was the result of scheduling error, but health groups including the Cancer Council, Parents Jury, Australian Medical Association and the Australian Greens called on the government to step in and ban the practise.

The AFGC said the suggestion to ban cartoons in advertising HFSS foods to children was “unnecessary” last year.

The AFGC then released figures in May to support its suggestions, which found the advertising of HFSS foods during children’s programs has fallen to 0.7 per cent between March and May 2011, down 60 per cent from the previous year.

The independent research by the Australian advertising information service Media Monitors was revealed in the RCMI Activity Report 2011, monitored free-to-air television – including digital channels – across Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney 24/7 for 92 days.

The figures prove that the Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative (RCMI), which was started in 2009, is working, according to AFGC Acting Chief Executive Dr Geoffrey Annison.

Under the RCMI, 17 leading food manufacturers have committed to no advertise to children under 12, unless the ads are promoting healthy dietary choices and a healthy lifestyle.

 “The latest advertising figures confirm that adverts are not running during TV programs aimed at children,” Annison said.

Annison said the AFGC is pleased the food industry has made decisions to protect children with industry codes.

“Industry looks forward to continuing discussions with Government and public health advocates to ensure the RCMI is aligned with community expectations, remains practical for industry to implement and is successful in supporting better diets and health outcomes for all Australians.”

Barrington said that while the health and nutrition, particularly of children, is always of concern, confectionary should always be seen and marketed as a ‘sometimes’ food, and should be enjoyed at those times.

“Confectionary is a hard one because if people want chocolate, they want chocolate!

Certainly in that category, consumers won’t compromise on that.”

Well then, back to the factory for the Oompa Loompas!

 

Packaging receives Halal certification

An Australian developer and manufacturer of sustainable plastics and packaging has received Halal certification for a new range of resins.

Cardia Bioplastics has derived its range of Biohybrid resins from renewable products, which now have formal acknowledgement of compliance with Islamic laws surrounding safety and quality.

Cardia Managing Director Dr Frank Glatz said the certification, announced today on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX), is a “commercial milestone” for the company.

“It significantly increases our ability to drive sales as we are able to appeal to a further 1.6 billion potential customers,” he said.

“The global Muslim population is huge and growing and we now have the opportunity to tap into it.

With over a billion Muslims around the world, the sale of Halal certified products is ever-increasing.

In the UK, where 4.6 per cent of the population identify as Muslim, the production of halal meat is rising faster than the number of people of the faith, with an increase of 15 per cent in the last 11 years, according to Professor Bill Reilly, former chairman of the UK Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food.

In May, he accused the local meat industry of increasing the number of animals slaughtered without stunning, claiming it is for religious purposes, when it is actually a financial decision, which he says is “unacceptable.”

In Australia, the concern of slaughtering animals without prior stunning is also of concern, and in late May, New South Wales unveiled new regulations in state abattoirs to ensure the wellbeing and welfare of animals.

The new legislation will require a designated Animal Welfare Officer to be on the premises of any abattoir to oversee and be accountable for the welfare of animals.

But Dr Shuja Shafi, deputy general-secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, has said previously there is a "lot of confusion" over Halal meat.

He said animals can be stunned before slaughter and still be labelled Halal.

"Over 90 per cent of Halal meat is stunned before slaughter," he said.

Last October, Australian agriculture ministers failed to resolve discussions over ritual slaughters, meaning exemptions that allow some Australian abattoirs to conduct slaughter without prior stunning will continue.

There are 12 abattoirs in Australia that are exempt from the regulations that say animals for consumption must be stunned before they are slaughtered.

The exemptions are on religious or cultural grounds, but animal welfare groups want to practice stopped altogether.

The council released a statement following the meeting, saying ministers have reviewed the results of a two-year consultation process with stakeholders and have considered the science involved and the views of religious groups, but could not reach a conclusion.

Up to 250,000 animals are killed without prior stunning in Australia every year under the religious slaughter exemptions and the RSPCA has rejected claims that stunning is not allowed on religious grounds, saying stunning is accepted by the Islamic community and Jewish community and no reason existed for un-stunned slaughter to continue.

The new measures in New South Wales will ensure the meat industry is heading in the right direction, Hodgkinson said.

“These tough new measures are being introduced to foster a culture in which abattoir management and employees fully understand and implement procedures that consistently comply with animal welfare standards.

 

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The 50 Day No Sugar Challenge: could you do it?

The impact of sugar on our health and weight (and brain) has become more commonly known in recent times, and soon thousands of Aussies will start on the challenge to eliminate sugar from their diet for 50 days.

The 50DaysNoSugar Challenge, created by personal trainer Natalie Carter, starts on 1 July, and urges people to cut the white stuff.

The aim of the challenge is to raise awareness of how many food and drinks products contain excess sugar, encourage healthy eating and curb sugar addiction.

But it won’t be easy. Experts say a sugar addiction is no easier to overcome than a heroin addiction, and more of us are addicted than we think.

The initiative was run successfully last year, and in 2012, Carter is embracing popular social media to encourage people to share their journey and help each other out, by encouraging participants to post snaps of their sugar-free food creations on Instagram and Facebook.

Mapping Australia’s collective weight gain

OBESE NATION: It’s time to admit it – Australia is becoming an obese nation. Today we launch a series looking at how this has happened and, more importantly, what we can do to stop the obesity epidemic.

In Australia today, around two-thirds of adults and a quarter of children are overweight or obese. This is a dramatic change from the landscape just 30 years ago when we first collected national data on weight and height.

In 1980, around 60% of Australian adults had a healthy weight; today this has almost halved to around 35%. In 1980, just 10% of adults were obese. In 2012, this figure tips 25%. The infographic below shows just how quickly obesity is increasing in Australia. And why it’s not an exaggeration to call it an epidemic.

 

Click here to open in new window or republish.

 

The same trend is seen around the world, with around a third of adults and almost one in five children in the United States obese. In some island nations, the prevalence is higher still, with more than half of Samoan and Tongan women classified as obese.

In Australia, we see a higher prevalence of obesity in a number of marginalised populations, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults, Australians living outside the major cities, and those living in more socioeconomically deprived areas.

With excess weight and obesity increasing your likelihood of developing many major chronic diseases, disability and early death, governments and communities around the world are working to halt, or at least slow, this trend.

Some encouraging reports have emerged recently from Australia, the United States and several European countries that show rates of obesity are stabilising in children. But the good news is limited to specific age groups and time periods (and the studies are yet to be replicated to confirm the results). Overall, rates of childhood overweight and obesity remain high.

There are two key objectives in dealing with Australia’s collective weight gain: we must both prevent the ongoing shift towards a heavier population, and increase the proportion of children and adults at a healthy weight. But before we can even contemplate either, we need to understand the drivers of these trends.

Why do we gain weight?

A person’s weight gain is generally caused by an imbalance between energy intake and energy expenditure. This appears simple, but the factors driving this imbalance at a population level are incredibly complex, making simple solutions elusive.

It’s commonly understood that the overweight and obesity we experience today is a normal response to an abnormal environment – often referred to as the obesogenic environment. The premise of this idea is that as humans we’re programmed to conserve energy, storing it up for a time when food is scarce. But most of us now live in an environment where food is plentiful.

On top of this, our need to expend energy in daily life has disappeared. Within our lifetimes we’ve seen the dominant move towards sedentary jobs and leisure-time pursuits, such as watching television, playing computer games and shopping online. We all also recognise the ease and affordability of foods high in energy.

The data supports our anecdotal understanding of these trends. While difficult to measure accurately, a comparison of Australian energy intake from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s shows an increase in daily energy intake of around 13% for children and 3% to 4% for adults. This latter increase, of around 350kJ a day (approximately half a can of soft drink, or a slice of bread), is equates to an eventual weight gain of around 3.5kg.

 

Our daily energy intake increased by 3% to 4% in the ten years to 1995. AAP

 

Similar trends have occurred in the United States, with a 2004 Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report indicating daily energy intake between 1970 and 1990 increased by around 7% in men and 22% in women.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to measure exercise and activity levels over time. A recent report of US workers suggested that while almost half of jobs in the 1960s entailed at least moderate levels of activity, less that 20% do so now.

Trends in overall physical activity levels are more difficult to compare, as different studies generally evaluate different aspects of total physical activity (leisure time, occupational activity, incidental movement, among other measurements). But most Australian and US data suggest recreational activity levels have decreased slightly over past decades.

A recent review by Boyd Swinburn and his colleagues proposes a framework for understanding the combined forces of changes in our energy intake and activity levels. Prior to the 1960s, the dominant change was decreased levels of physical activity, but this had no observable effect on population weight status as food remained a limiting factor. Subsequent to the 1960s, the rapid changes in food availability, composition and marketing drove rapid increases in population weight, now against a backdrop of minimal activity.

The authors also highlight the strong correlation between national economic status and obesity: the move to affordable and accessible high-energy foods requires a certain level of economic wealth and activity. In this sense, the obesity epidemic can be seen as a detrimental outcome of our society’s over-consumption.

 

With sedentary jobs and leisure-time pursuits, we're not expending the energy we used to. Flickr/justingaynor

 

Clearly, our food and activity environments require the dominant focus in our efforts to tackle population weight gain. But there are a number of other contributors to weight gain that are also being evaluated for their potential role in achieving healthy population weight.

At an individual level, we know that the in utero environment influences the future child’s weight and chronic disease pathways, with both under- and over-nutrition linked to excess weight gain later in life. We also know that factors such as lack of sleep, low-quality sleep, and use of particular medications, life stages such as pregnancy, and specific genetic variations are also predictive of weight gain. Work to determine the importance of these factors at a population level is ongoing.

There are also newly identified candidates predictive of weight gain, including exposure to environmental toxicants such endocrine disruptors, Bisphenol A (BPA), phthlates and persistent organic pollutants. New studies have also suggested a link between some viral infections, such as human adenovirus, and obesity.

Reversing the trend

Successful population health campaigns to improve the levels of healthy weight, activity and nutrition in our population will need to focus on addressing the overarching drivers of the food and activity environments, while also taking into account these other factors that predict individual variation in weight gain.

The launch last year of the Australian National Preventive Health Agency’s Strategic Plan recognises the importance of this approach. It’s critical that we continue to work towards implementing a range of interventions appropriate for each stage of prevention and treatment, from childhood to adulthood.

 

We need a range of interventions to halt Australia's obesity epidemic. Ben Matthews

 

Currently, only a third of Australian adults have a healthy weight. If these trends continue, this could decrease to around one quarter over the next decade. There is a real risk that if we are not able to reverse these trends, very soon we will become conditioned to this new demographic, just as smoking was considered “normal” in the 1960s.

To prevent the burden of diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and cancer that will arise from these trends, we need strong and wide-reaching action to drive decreases in energy consumption, particularly within the Australia’s vulnerable population groups.

This is the first part of our series Obese Nation. To read the other instalments, follow the links below:

Part two: Explainer: overweight, obese, BMI – what does it all mean?

Part three: Explainer: how does excess weight cause disease?

Anna Peeters has received funding from National Health & Medical Research Council, Australian Research Council, Australian National Preventive Health Agency, VicHealth, Allergan Australia, The Global Corporate Challenge(c) . She is affiliated with Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Monash University and the Australian and New Zealand Obesity Society.

Dianna Magliano has been the recipient of two ARC linkage grants.

The Conversation

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

Subway’s chicken fillet is not a fillet at all: chain found in breach of advertising code

Fast-food chain Subway has been forced to rename its Chicken Fillet, after the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) found it to be misleading, because it is not in fact a chicken fillet, but rather processed meat.

The chicken fillet option, which has been available in Australian restaurants for 10 years, will now be referred to as the Classic Chicken, because it is made up of processed meat, shaped together to look like a fillet, and not in fact a genuine chicken fillet, as the name suggests.

Subway is in now in the process of changing signage at its 1300 stores across Australia.

The ASB received a complaint from a consumer who realised the meat was processed.

“I purchased a chicken fillet subway roll and when I got it home I was disgusted to find after biting it that it is in fact a processed chicken piece,” the complaint said.

“My understanding of a chicken fillet is a fillet of chicken not processed chicken meat.”

The restaurant chain tried to defend the name, claiming that because there had not been any other complaints, it should be allowed to stay.

 “The “Chicken Fillet Sub” has been offered for sale in Subway restaurants throughout Australia for at least ten years,” it said in response to the complaint.

“The brand has not substantially changed the formula for the product during this time period.

“The ingredients for the Chicken Fillet in the Chicken Fillet Sub as listed on the brand’s website are as follows: Chicken (82%), Flour (wheat), Water, Mineral Salt (450, 451, 452), Salt, Vegetable Oil, Wheat Starch, Sugar, Herbs and Spices, Hydrolysed Vegetable Protein, Egg Albumen, Dehydrated Vegetable (Garlic), Yeast Extract, Soy Sauce (Wheat), Flavours (Wheat, Milk), Maltodextrin, Acidity Regulators (331, 336), Whey Protein (Milk).

Subway blamed the lack of standards as to what constitutes a ‘fillet’ as part of the problem.

“After review, the Food Standards Australia New Zealand does not appear to have a standard of identity or definition for ‘chicken fillet’ and the Australian Chicken Meat Federation does not include it in its terms of ‘Cuts of Chicken Meat’, it said.

“The chicken fillet is a formed product and the brand has been using the descriptor “fillet” on the basis of the shape of the product and that the meat is boneless.

“No reference or claim has been made that the product is from whole muscle and the company has made information about the product readily available to consumers on its website.”

Nonetheless, Subway has decided to change the name of the chicken offering, and not use the word ‘fillet’ when referring to it.

The ABS ruled that while there was no definitive standard on what constitutes a ‘fillet,’ the name insinuates that is a single, quality cut of chicken.

“The Board noted that the prevailing community standard on what a fillet of chicken is, does not include chicken presented in pieces or formed or processed chicken meat.

“In the Board’s view, most members of the community would associate chicken fillets with the breast or thigh portion of the chicken in one whole piece or as a cut of chicken rather than reconstituted into a particular shape.

“Based on the above the Board considered that the advertisement was misleading or deceptive and did breach Section 2.1 of the Food Code.”

Major food companies targeting low income communities more likely to lead unhealthy lifestyles

A new report has found that major food processors are targeting low and middle income areas with their unhealthy products, armed with the knowledge that consumption of unhealthy foods is higher in amongst those societal groups.

"There is significant penetration by multinational processed food manufacturers such as Nestle, Kraft, PepsiCo, and Danone into food environments in low-and-middle income countries, where consumption of unhealthy commodities is reaching—and in some cases exceeding—a level presently observed in high income countries", international researchers wrote in this week's PLoS Medicine.

Led by David Stuckler from the Univiversity of Cambridge, the authors from the UK, US and India analysed trends in unhealthy food and beverages, including sugary drinks and processed foods that are high in salt, fat, and sugar, alcohol, and tobacco between 1997 and 2010 and forecasted to 2016.

They discovered that not only is the rate of consumption of unhealthy foods and drinks growing faster in low to middle income communities, it is also growing faster than any high-income market in history.

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

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

Then last month a new Australia-wide study found that people living in rural areas are more likely to consume alcohol and be overweight and obese.

The researchers of the latest study also found that higher intake of unhealthy foods correlates strongly with higher tobacco and alcohol sales.

They believe the global rise of transnational food and drink companies penetrating these areas more likely to have unhealthy lifestyles is a deliberate and dangerous move.

"Until health practitioners, researchers, and politicians are able to understand and identify feasible ways to address the social, economic, and political conditions that lead to the spread of unhealthy food, beverage, and tobacco commodities, progress in areas of prevention and control of non-communicable diseases will remain elusive."

Earlier this month a new study found 95 per cent of Australian children over two exceeded their recommended intake of saturated fat.

How does excess weight cause disease?

OBESE NATION: It’s time to admit it – Australia is becoming an obese nation. Today we launch a series looking at how this has happened and, more importantly, what we can do to stop the obesity epidemic.

We start by setting the scene with a map illustrating the extent of the problem and some tools to understand what this means: how we measure obesity and here, an explanation of how excess weight affects our body and causes disease.

When you consider the potential for a shortened lifespan and increased risk of a long list of diseases, it’s no wonder Australia’s obesity epidemic is causing so much concern. According to the National Health and Medical Research Council, obesity causes, worsens, or increases your risk of a raft of diseases, including:

  • diabetes,
  • obstructive sleep apnoea,
  • polycystic ovarian syndrome,
  • hypertension,
  • abnormal lipids,
  • heart attack and stroke,
  • some cancers,
  • fatty liver.

So how does obesity cause or contribute to these problems? The answer is complex, as there are multiple mechanisms. But the most important factor is that fat causes resistance to insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating metabolism.

When the body accumulates excess fat, it’s either stored in fat cells, where it’s relatively safe, or deposited in tissues, such as the liver and muscles.

In the liver, fat drives the increased production of glucose (sugar). In muscles, excess fat impairs the action of insulin to stimulate the body’s cells to use this glucose as a source of energy. The resulting insulin resistance forces the pancreas to overproduce insulin, in an effort to maintain normal blood glucose levels.

This is dramatically demonstrated in patients who have lipodystrophy, a genetic or autoimmune disorder in which there is a deficiency of fat cells. These people have nowhere to store fat, except in liver and muscle, and develop severe insulin resistance, diabetes and fatty liver.

Diabetes

Obesity affects the body’s ability to produce insulin. This is caused by stress on the insulin-producing pancreatic islet (β) cells and excess fat directly damaging these islet cells.

In people with a genetic predisposition to diabetes, the combination of insulin resistance, direct fat toxicity and genetic predisposition leads to the failure and death of islet cells. The result is a relative deficiency of insulin and the development of type 2 diabetes.

Obstructive sleep apnoea

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) occurs when there is an excess of fat around the neck which increases the collapsibility of the air passage to the lung, particularly during sleep. The resulting reduction of blood oxygen tells the sleeper’s brain to wake up and take a deep breath. This happens repeatedly during the night, preventing the individual from getting enough sleep.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome

The high insulin levels resulting from insulin resistance stimulate the ovary to make an excess of male-type hormones (normally produced in small amounts in women). This over-production of hormones can lead to acne, facial hair and the production of ovarian cysts. Polycystic ovarian syndrome is also a common cause of infertility.

Hypertension

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, means the heart has to work harder than usual to pump blood to the arteries.

Insulin has been shown to increase blood pressure by causing the kidney to retain salt and by activating the sympathetic (adrenaline) nervous system. Salt increases the amount of water that is retained (and therefore the volume of the blood), while the increased sympathetic activity narrows some blood vessels. The increased fluid and decreased vessel volume combine to increase blood pressure.

Abnormal lipids (high cholesterol)

The body produces cholesterol, a type of fat, to perform a number of metabolic processes such as creating hormones and bile.

The typical lipid abnormalities seen in people with obesity are elevated triglyceride (known as a “storage fat”) and a low HDL-cholesterol (or good cholesterol). While still under investigation, there is some evidence to suggest that elevated triglycerides are caused by fat-induced insulin resistance.

Low HDL-cholesterol is bad because its role is to take cholesterol from the blood vessels to the liver for removal. Low HDL means that this cleaning function doesn’t occur, leaving harmful cholesterol to remain in the blood vessels.

Increased risk of heart attack and stroke

As described above, obesity causes multiple cardiovascular risk factors such as impaired glucose tolerance, high blood pressure and abnormal lipids. These lead to excess fat deposition in the blood vessels, including those supplying the heart muscle and the brain.

When these fatty plaques rupture, a clot forms over them, blocking the vessel and resulting in a heart attack or a stroke, depending on which artery the clot forms in.

Increased incidence of cancer

The increased risk of cancer, particularly of the breast and bowel, with obesity has been documented in several large surveys. The mechanisms of this link are not yet fully understood and are currently the subject of much research.

Fatty liver

Excess fat accumulation in the liver can cause damage leading to liver-cell death, and in genetically susceptible people, can even cause cirrhosis (end-stage liver disease which requires a liver transplant).

The high prevalence of obesity means that fat-induced cirrhosis is overtaking excess alcohol or viral hepatitis as the commonest cause of cirrhosis.

Researchers are still investigating the mechanisms underpinning the links between obesity and various chronic diseases, but there’s no doubt excess weight poses a serious health risk. Urgent action is needed to halt Australia’s obesity epidemic.

This is part three of our series Obese Nation. To read the other instalments, follow the links below:

Part one: Mapping Australia’s collective weight gain

Part two: Explainer: overweight, obese, BMI – what does it all mean?

Joseph Proietto received funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council to investigate the link between obesity and abnormal lipids.

The Conversation

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

Longer Life Through Coffee Drinking?

There is a persistent belief that drinking coffee is bad for you. Some alternative medicine systems eschew all coffee drinking (but are enthusiastic about coffee enemas). Certainly if you overindulge the sleeplessness and tremors will remind you of the perils of too much of a good thing. But there is a longstanding belief that long term consumption of coffee is in some nebulous way “bad”. This is despite coffee being packed with the sorts of antioxidants you would pay good money for at the health food store.

Now a new study suggests that people who drink coffee are less likely to die.

Wow! Great! I’ll just fire up the espresso machine then.

Hold on, firstly, the effect is modest, you are around 10% less likely to die if you are drinking 6 or more cups of coffee a day. Secondly, it’s an association. We don’t know if it’s the coffee drinking leading to less death, or something else which coffee drinkers are more likely to do.

Oh, so I should pack the espresso machine away.

No, there is now a fair bit of evidence that modest coffee consumption can give you some degree of protection against things like Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s disease (again though, we don’t know if it’s coffee per se that gives protection, or something else that coffee drinkers do). And coffee tastes good too.

But the apparent health benefits of any food or beverage should not be an excuse to overindulge, like the people who use the reported benefits of drinking modest amounts of red wine as an excuse to drink bottles of the stuff in one go.

So while I get the espresso going, what is the latest evidence?

A research team followed a group of nearly 400,000 people for 14 years, or until they died ( whichever came first). They gave the people extensive questionnaires about coffee drinking, food consumption, lifestyle and measured a range of health parameters at the start of of the study. Then after the 14 years they looked at the death rates in coffee drinkers and non-coffee drinkers.

They found that more coffee drinkers died.

Wait! What!

That’s the problem with looking at these sorts of studies simplistically. There are a whole other bunch of factors that influence death rates. In epidemiology speak these are called “confounders” (because They confound interpretation). It turns out that most coffee drinkers also smoke, so the increased death rate was due too smoking differences between coffee and non-coffee drinkers.

If the researchers had not measured smoking rates in the people, they would have been fooled into thinking that coffee was bad for you. This is also why we say that the coffee drinking – less death is just an association, the increased life-span could be due to something that wasn’t measured, even though lots of things were measured.

So how did they work out coffee drinking was good for you?

In epidemiology speak they “ controlled for the confounders”. If you compare just smokers who don’t drink coffee with those that do, coffee drinking smokers livers longer than non-coffee drinking smokers. Of course, it’s not quite as simple as that. When you have a lot of measurements you have to do some clever mathematics to sort it all out.

So is it a good study?

Yes, they had a big group of people they followed for a sufficiently long time, they only looked at people who were reasonably healthy when they started following them (so disease progress patterns couldn’t mess things up) and they measured a heck of a lot of lifestyle factors.

One problem is, as the researchers point out themselves, that they only asked people about their coffee consumption at the beginning of the study. So they had no way of knowing if people decreased or increased their consumption, or switched to or from decaf.

Another thing they didn’t measure was the type of coffee, apart from crudely separating caffeinated from non-caffeinated. So we have no way of knowing if most people were drinking Floor-Sweepings brand instant coffee or Heart Burtser double espressos.

The latter information is important if we want to generalise to other populations. US coffee as generally consumed is somewhat different in strength to how the Europeans take it. I vividly remember visiting a friend of mine in Seattle. At the time I was working as a postdoctoral student in Berlin. There was an industrial strength filter coffee machine outside my lab door, pumping out vicious black heart starters almost 24/7. My mate proudly took me to the street in Seattle where he claimed the best coffee in the US was served.

It tasted like pinkelwasser. That is not a compliment.

Sounds uninspiring, so how is coffee making people live longer?

 

Chlorogenic acid, a key antioxidant in coffee Ian Musgrave

 

We know how it’s not doing it. It’s not caffeine, as decaffeinated and caffeinated coffee had pretty much the same effect (except for injuries and accident, where caffeinated coffee was a clear winner).

Coffee is chock full of antioxidant chemicals such as polyphenols and Chlorogenic acid. We know that people who consume foods rich in antioxidants have better health outcomes and live longer than people who don’t. We also know that feeding people pure antioxidant vitamins is a waste of time. The antioxidant status of food may be unrelated to health, but may be a marker for something else in these foods.

So whether it’s the antioxidants in coffee is unclear. This hasn’t stopped companies from adding extra antioxidants to instant coffee though (although they were doing this well before this study came out). Maybe it’s something completely unrelated, like coffee drinkers are more likely to walk to their local coffee shop, getting a bit more exercise.

So if I want to live longer?

Choose you parents carefully, eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, get more exercise, develop or participate in social networks. Why not walk down to your local coffee shop and share a cappuccino with your friends?

Coffee’s ready

Milk and two sugars please.

Ian Musgrave 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.

Reduced quarantine dogs will put WA at risk: union

The decision by the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia (DAFWA) to reduce biosecurity measures at Perth Airport has been slammed by a state union.

The Community and Public Sector Union/Civil Service Association branch secretary said the proposed changes would put the state at risk.

The changes include dog handlers performing quarantine duties at the Perth domestic airport, and the eight handlers will be reduced by half.

The change is due to be implemented on 1 July, and will leave the airport without any quarantine inspections after 8pm on weekends.

Walkington believes the changes will increase the risks of prohibited insects, animal pests, plants, animal diseases and weeds entering the state.

"The decision will leave WA susceptible to diseases it has fought hard to be quarantined from," she said.

"This is a clear-cut example of front-line services being affected as department heads are forced to administer the State Government cutbacks.

"With Perth's domestic airport now processing record flight numbers every day, it doesn't make sense to reduce quarantine services."

Walkington has accused WA Premier Colin Barnett of being hypocritical with the decision, after he said he was concerned about federal government plans to cut jobs at customs' district offices and the potential impact on agriculture and public health.

"At the same time Mr Barnett is letting his government compromise border security with quarantine cut backs," she said.

According to DAFWA agricultural risk management executive director John Ruprecht, the job cuts are the result of increased staff at the Eucla's 24-hour quarantine service.

"This is necessary to meet the demands for managing pests and diseases, rather than budget cuts," he said.

"The department is looking at a more targeted risk-based response in regards to quarantine, due to cost pressures and trying to be more effective.

"We are facing pressures such as extra staff, wages, and operating costs."

Ruprecht said the plan involved looking at how long quarantine dogs were on the floor at the domestic airport and if that was the best way to oversee the area.

"Having the dogs on the floor for a longer duration of time didn't necessarily equate to greater effectiveness," he said.

While there will be less dog handlers at Perth domestic airport, the number of quarantine dogs will remain the same, he explained.

"The risk-based approach we will now take will target passengers from those States with the greatest risk and be more effective," he said.

"We are still going to continue with random after hours and weekend inspections."

Image: Perth Airport

AFGC appoints new CEO

The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC)’s new chief executive will begin at the end of next month.

Gary Dawson will come to the food and packaging’s peak representative group from Thales Australia, where he is the senior executive in charge of corporate affairs, communications and strategy. 

Prior to this he filled a similar role at the ABC, managing strategy and communications and has also worked at the highest levels of government, spending five years as a Senior Advisor to Prime Minister John Howard, covering both media and policy, and four years as an advisor to ACT Chief Minister Kate Carnell.

Carnell stepped down from the role as chief executive of the AFGC in January to take up the same position at the Butterfly Foundation, which provides education and support on eating disorders in Australia.

Chairman of the AFGC, John Doumani, congratulated Gary on his appointment.

 “Gary brings tremendous experience and proven success at senior executive levels in both the public and private sectors, with a career spanning media, politics and business,” he said.

“Importantly, he also has experience in an Industry body, having worked as Director of Communications at the NSW Law Society.

Dawson will officially commence his duties as AFGC chief on 30 July.

95 per cent of children eating too much saturated fat: study

A new study has found 95 per cent of Australian children over two exceeded their recommended intake of saturated fat.

Children generally had adequate consumption of iron, calcium, zinc and vitamin C, but the number of those consuming more than the 10 per cent dietary intake of saturated fat, as recommended, was alarming.

As was the finding that one third of those surveyed were overweight or obese.

The University of Adelaide study, which was published this week in the Medical Journal of Australia, also found that children were lacking in many essential nutrients.

Almost 70 per cent of children did not have enough Omega-3 polyunsaturated fat, which is essential for brain and eye development, and over 80 per cent did not consume enough dietary fibre.

The poor nutritional intake was not subject to socioeconomic backgrounds, with nearly all children from rich and poor homes consuming too much saturated fat.

Recent studies have found that children’s neighbourhoods to contribute to obesity rates, with children from underprivileged backgrounds more likely to be overweight than their socioeconomically advantaged counterparts.

The latest study found that most of the saturated fat the preschoolers were consuming came from dairy products, and the authors of the study have urged parents to consider feeding low-fat dairy products to children over two.

The research stretched over two years, and involved door-knocking more than 13 000 homes in Adelaide.

Children were then measured, blood samples were taken, and the food they consumed over the three-day period weighed and recorded.

Image: Care2

We source most of our fresh produce locally: Woolworths

Woolworths has unveiled a new advertising campaign, intended to inform consumers that contrary to widely-held opinion, it actually sources 96 per cent of its fresh produce from Australia.

Most consumers believe half or less of fresh meat sold in Australian supermarkets is locally grown, but Woolworths says all of it is.

Consumers are also increasingly aware of the freshness of products by the time it gets to their shopping trolley.

"There is little doubt that supermarkets can be doing a better job in informing customers about who we are and how we are able to deliver the best fresh food in the country,” managing director of Woolworths supermarket and petrol division, Tjeerd Jegen said.

“That's why Woolworths is embarking on a multi-million dollar brand and consumer awareness campaign.

"As Australia's iconic fresh food retailer we are reaching out to customers. We have a responsibility as Australia's largest national supermarket to better explain to customers where their food comes from and to improve their shopping experience."

The slight change to Woolworths’ Fresh Food People slogan is sure to be met with some scepticism though, as produce growers still struggle to make ends meet.

The new advertising and branding campaign marks "a fresh promise to our customers" to be 'Australia's fresh food people,’ the company said.

 

Australians oppose TV junk food ads, warm to GM foods

More than 75% of Australians support a ban on junk food advertising in children’s television, and almost 20% support a total ban, according to a poll by the Australian National University on attitudes to food security.

The survey of 1200 people also found that nearly 50% of Australians feel genetically modified (GM) foods are safe to eat, and 13% say they struggle to put regular, nutritionally-balanced food on their tables.

The poll, Public Opinion on Food Security and Related Food Issues, gauged views on household food security, eating out habits, health and food safety and GM crops. The results describe a nation that is increasingly opting to eat out rather than cook at home, and one that is concerned about the safety of imported food products but divided about GM foods.

Stewart Lockie, Head of the School of Sociology in the College of Arts and Social Sciences at ANU and lead author of the study, said one of the surprising findings was that the increase in the number of people eating out was driven by time poverty and not socio-economic status. Eight percent of people said they eat takeaway food more than three times a week.

“Consumers of takeaway food were mostly young adults, male, with university educations, whereas we expected it to be lower socio-economic groups, if for no other reason than the takeaway industry really targets those communities with their store locations,” Professor Lockie said.

“The other surprising finding was that nearly half of the population feels that GM foods are safe to eat. If you asked this question 10 years ago, you’d have found widespread opposition. These days there’s a degree of familiarity, and there’s a sense that this stuff has been around for a while and there haven’t been disasters. There’s also a degree of ambivalence – this stuff is in the food system and we can’t do anything about it.”

David Tribe, a Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at the University of Melbourne, agreed. “People have been given time to kick the tyres, check the paintwork, and they slowly accommodate something that was once perceived as very different. That’s one thing.

“The other thing is that Kevin Rudd was overseas in 2009 talking to prime ministers in countries that were under threat from a food crisis. He realised that food security was one of the greatest moral issues that we faced. So the message started to get through to people that it was important to think about food availability. The conversation changed dramatically.”

Genetically modified canola is now harvested in NSW and Victoria. AAP/Greenpeace

The ANU poll also uncovered concern among consumers about foods imported from Asia. “It’s a developing part of the world,” Professor Lockie said, “and the finding reflects a concern that some countries don’t have or don’t enforce adequate food safety regulations, and producers may be using excessive amounts of chemicals and not guarding against biological hazards.”

Timothy Gill, Principal Research Fellow and Scientific Programs Manager at the Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition and Exercise at the University of Sydney, said the push to restrict junk food advertising was not designed to deflect responsibility from parents for the way they raised their children, but to give them more support.

“You only have to experience the trauma of trying to shop with young children in the supermarket, and being pulled every which way by a child demanding a particular food product that has been marketed to appeal to them,” Associate Professor Gill said.

“Pester power is a mechanism that marketers have always deemed legitimate and appropriate. For young children, it’s about creating a sense of desire, fun and familiarity around certain products. For older children, it might be about appealing to the idea that they’ll be more popular or cool if they have some products.”

Professor Gill said it was “absolutely true” that parents should be accountable for the food their children consumed – “and the thing is, parents do want to take responsibility, and the reason why they wish to see less exposure of their children to this sort of advertising is that it goes directly against the influence they try to have and the things they teach their children. [Placing restrictions on ads] is not about taking away the responsibility of parents. Quite the opposite – it’s actually allowing them to take responsibility.”

A range of studies have shown that removing junk food advertising from children’s television has an effect on purchase requests and eating patterns.

Some of the key findings from the poll are:

  • 44% of people surveyed felt that GM foods are safe to eat. Among those who have read a lot about GM foods, 49% felt they were safe to eat.
  • However, 54% of respondents said that it was unlikely they would buy foods that are labelled as genetically modified.
  • 77% support a ban on junk food advertising during children’s television programmes and 18% oppose all junk food advertising.
  • 81% reported that food products in general are safe to eat, but nearly 66% did not feel confident with the safety of food products imported from Asia.
  • 8% eat takeaway more than three times each week, and men are 50% more likely than women to eat takeaway food.
  • Concerns about the economy are not reflected in people’s spending habits, with 37% eating out more than once a week.
  • 16% said they often or sometimes worried that their food would run out before they had enough money to buy more.
  • 13% said they could not afford to eat nutritionally-balanced meals.
  • 4% received emergency food assistance from a charity or other source.

The Conversation

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

Vitamin D to be added to foods?

The rate of low vitamin D levels in Australia could see it added to foods.

About 30 per cent of Australians are low in vitamin D, which is largely absorbed from direct sun exposure.

But with skin cancer the most common type of the disease in Australia, sun safety has seen many people shying away from exposure.

Deakin University researcher Caryl Nowson believes we should begin adding the vitamin to commonly-consumed foods, similar to the way folate is added to bread to curb neural tube defects.

Canada has already begun adding vitamin D to foods.

She said increasing vitamin D levels has been shown to prevent falls and fractures in the elderly and reduce mortality rates.

 

 

4 million Aussies struggle to open packaging: how the industry is improving

Evolving lifestyles and an ageing population will force packaging to innovate, as they attempt to meet changing household demographics and more educated consumers.

“The average household has two occupants,” Paul Curtis, chief executive of the Packaging Council of Australia told the AIP National Conference.

“We’re all seeing increased demand for sealable packages to reduce wastage, portion controlled packaging to meet our diet needs, as well as on-the-go packaging to eat when out and about,” he said.

“Packaging will get more and more attention in the future.”

A collaboration between NSW Health, Arthritis Australia and companies including Nestle, is already making significant changes to the packaging industry, particularly with accessibility.

Accessible packaging is a crucial component in packaging nowadays, with a rapidly ageing population, who mostly want to stay at home rather than going into aged care.

But it’s not just older Australians who struggle to open packaging, as Wendy Favorito, Director and Consumer Representative, Arthritis Australia said.

After being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at a young age, Favorito is finds opening a lot of packaging an impossible task.

“When I look at a picture of a jar, you might as well show me a picture of Mount Everest, because it is basically that impossible to me,” she said.

Favorito explained that the impossible task of opening jars, cans and other kinds of packaging takes an emotional toll on the person.

“Every day I struggle to open something and that has a huge emotional toll in trying to live independently and maintain self esteem,” she said.

“I feel angry, I feel frustrated, I feel disappointed and I am not alone.

“I am privileged to tell my story on behalf of about 4 million Australians who are living with some form of arthritis.”

NSW Health has committed to supplying hospitals with easily opened packaging, and Nestle is also working towards improving its standards, as determined by the Accessibility Scale created by Arthritis Australia.

“Accessibility is a key area of development for the NSW Minister for Health,” NSW Health’s Carmen Rechbauer said.

“The issue for food service people is not to go backwards, but to improve the safety of meals delivered to patients.

“They are portion-controlled to ensure patient are their getting their nutrients, but people can’t open the stuff to eat it.

“And I’m not just talking about patients, but staff as well.

“ If you think about hospital patients, they are just the general population, who pass though there.

“It’s exciting to see accessibility is being taken seriously now.”
 

Make sure to check out the in-depths feature on accessible packaging in the June edition of Food Magazine.

Family farms won’t survive and it’s not all Coles and Woollies fault: AIP National Conference

The 2012 Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP) Conference has kicked of in Queensland, and food and packaging experts have already shared their thoughts on the future of the Australian industry.

Tom Schneider, President of the World Packaging Organisation began his address to the audience by saying Australians are “very much like Texans, you meet people well and you enjoy people.”

Terry O’Brien, Managing Director, Simplot had some more controversial comments on the state of the industry and what producers and companies need to dot o stay afloat.

“People keep saying things like ‘If we could just legislate against Coles and Woolworths and stop them bullying companies,  it would fix everything.,’ but I don’t think that’s necessarily true.

These retailers take roughly 33 per cent of profit out of the chain; globally, the level is about 25 per cent, so it is higher.

“Woolworths is the second highest profit margin maker behind Walmart.

“The fact that Woolworths is so successful isn’t a fluke, they have worked hard over a number of years and they aren’t stopping.

“And they’re looking for further profit.”

O’Brien shared his view that the rapidly changing food and packaging supply industries will continue to push producers and manufacturers to innovate and improve their business models.

“The press has had a lot of fun with the retailers and the food industry taking shots at each other over these kinds of statistics, rather than getting them together at a table to discuss the issues.

"The AFGC [Australian Food and Grocery Council] has started doing that and some kind of truce has been called.

“There is a responsibility for Coles and Woollies, given their size, for them to respect suppliers.

“When they make decisions to D-list people, they have to understand the impact of that. 

“I think they do understand, but they have to communicate those through the organisation. 

“They’re not the pseudo protectors for companies in Australia, so if you’re  sitting in a company that’s not looking bright, and is not innovating, the future is not bright for you in Australia.

When questioned about yesterday’s news that Woolworths chief Grant O’Brien has extended an olive branch to manufacturers and suppliers to develop an independent body to oversee dialogue between the major supermarkets and suppliers, O’Brien (Terry, who assures there is no family connection) was cautiously optimistic.

“Things are usually settled much better sitting around table than in all out warfare,” he said.

“How far and how deep into issues they would go, I don’t know.

“What he has offered so far is not going to the heart of the issues we have, so we need more discussions about that.”

He said not everything can be blamed on the major supermarkets, and that companies and suppliers cannot expect to continue doing business exactly ads they have done for decades.

“You have to make yourself a corporation rather than a family farm system,” he said.

“I love farmers, I spend a lot of time with them and I wish the model could stay where it is to make money, but unfortunately that won’t be the case.

“Regional areas are going to suffer.”

“No matter which way you cut it, we’re too expensive.

“There’s been a lot of talk about cheap imports, but when I’ve travelled the world, I’ve found that is the normal price, and we pay too much.

“It just costs too much to produce things in Australia, and it comes down to our standard of living.

“We expect to be able to support the standard of living we have, people are widespread geographically and people demand wage increases and things like that.

“But nobody tries to be better than average because average gets them paid.

“We have to be very efficient, and chase constant productivity improvements.”

O’Brien said the increased union activity of late is not beneficial to the industry, nor is the changed attitude to redundancies and retirement.

“The re-energised union movement in Australia is not helping,” he said.

“I’ve always been a supporter of unions, but I’m really pissed off with them now and I think they’re chasing people offshore now.

“And redundancies are just such a big nest egg, people now would love to walk out the door at retirement with a redundancy payment.

“How do you unwind this sort of thing?