Obese women face discrimination in the workplace: study

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

40 per cent of elderly Australians at risk of malnourishment

 

More than 40 per cent of older Australians living in community housing are “malnourished or at risk of malnourishment,” according to a new study.

The Melbourne-based report, published in the Dietitions Association of Australia’s journal, Nutrition and Dietetics, was the result of a three month study.

Community nurses in Victoria assessed the malnutrition of 235 clients aged 65 and older and found one in three were identified as being at risk of malnutrition, while eight per cent were classified malnourished.

Only 41 per cent were in a healthy weight range, with 40 per cent overweight or obese and nineteen per cent underweight.

The average age of the participant was 82, with a range from 65 to 100.

Most of them were living on a pension and had an annual income of less that $30 000.

They lived at home, either alone or with a spouse, or with other family.

While the federal government recently released a 10-year plan to improve aged care throughout the country, Dietitians Association of Australia chief executive Claire Hewat said more attention needs to be paid to older people living within the community.

There have long been calls for the aged pension to be increased, with both qualitative and quantitative data showing that it is almost impossible for an older person to cover expenses and properly feed and clothe themselves on the current amount.

Previous Australian research has also found one in three hospital patients and almost 70 per cent of residents in aged care facilities are malnourished, Hewat pointed out.

Accredited Practising Dietition and leader of the study, Georgie Rist, said malnourishment is particularly problematic for the elderly, and those with regular contact with older people need to be aware of the signs and impacts.

 “Malnutrition is linked with poorer health, meaning increased GP visits, more admissions to hospital and longer hospital stays, and early admission to nursing homes,” she said.

“Community nurses are ideally placed to pick-up nutrition issues in older people as they are at the forefront of client care in the home.”

Image: Getty Images

Quarter of juice boxes contain 25 per cent real juice: Choice survey

A quarter of ‘poppers’ or juice boxes marketed as fruit juice in Australia actually contain 25 per cent or less actual fruit juice, a new Choice study has found.

The consumer watchdog examined the serving size, sugar content, additives, Vitamin C and percentage of actual juice of 100 juice box products available in Australia and compared the results.

Choice has recommended parents heed the findings of the research and think twice before buying the products for their children, as they may not be as nutritious as they assume.

The sugar content of many of the products tested should ring alarm bells for parents, who could unwittingly be providing their child an entire day’s worth of sugar in one box.

The research found, for example, that Golden Circle Pineapple and Golden Circle Sunshine Punch juice boxes each contain more than six teaspoons (30.5g) of sugars in a 250mL pack, a significant amount for a young child.

“Juice boxes definitely offer lunchbox convenience but many are packed with added sugars and deserve the status of a treat,” Choice spokesperson Ingrid Just said.

“While the 100 per cent juice poppers can give you valuable nutrients such as vitamin C and folate, they don’t have the fibre of fresh fruit.”

Choice also found the serving sizes of many of the drinks were too large for children, with three quarters of those tested double the recommended size of 125mL.

 “Many juice boxes offer a double serve which makes it easy for children to end up drinking more juice and more associated kilojoules and sugars, than what is generally recommended,” Just said.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that many beverages labelled as ‘fruit drinks’ are confusing consumers into thinking they’re healthy, when in reality many are worse than fizzy drinks.

In January, researchers in the United States began pushing for a tax on sweetened drinks, which they say could save 26 000 lives per year.

The team from the University of California, San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Centre and Columbia University have found that increasing the cost of fizzy drinks and other sweetened beverages by a penny per ounce, would reduce consumption by 15 per cent in ten years.

Research on the hidden additives in foods has led to the government tightening up restrictions about health claims made on packaging, and as more people become informed about the impacts of unhealthy diets and obesity, consumers are turning back to basics and demanding healthier fruit juices.

Check out our feature on this trend towards health here.

When it comes to juice, keep it simple, stupid

Fruit juice used to be simple. You got some fruit, squeezed it until liquid ran out and then drank it. But then, things got complicated.

Somewhere along the way, juice producers realised they could make those expensive fruits go further: put less of it in the bottle, but sell it for the same price. Genius!

Often additives like water, sugar and orange flavouring are mixed with the real stuff that looks like juice, and is stocked in supermarkets with all the other juices, but can only technically be called a "fruit drink."

Then there's "reconstituted" juice, which is a way of adding water to dry solids from which the water has been evaporated.

Taking the moisture out of the fruit, by using heat, is a way to make transportation easier and ensure availability all year round, but can result in many of the nutrients being extracted.

But as people become more aware of the impact of obesity and the part that food and drink consumption plays in that, there is more demand than ever for proper, traditional fruit juice.

Its juice like it used to be, only better.

When nudity is perfectly acceptable

Ten years ago, Nudie Juice was launched by a man affectionately known as 'Tall Tim," and since its initial days, which came off the back of Tim Pethick's obsession with making fresh juices for his family, it has grown into a well-known and trusted brand with state-of-the-art juicing facilities, thousands of stockists and countless "Nudie addicts."

"Our proudest moments are often the unprompted bits of feedback that we receive from our consumers," Richard Glenn, Nudie's National Sales Manager told Food Magazine.

"We are continually amazed by the amount of people who take the time to contact us and tell us how much they love Nudies, their experience of their first nudie, or what they think of our new products.

"We call these people 'Nudie addicts'.

"Last week we even received a picture from a lady who had embroidered a quilt with pictures of all of our nudie characters on it, impressive stuff!"

The ever-increasing number of 'Nudie addicts,' is clear evidence that consumers are looking for quality products, free from preservatives but full of goodness.

Before Nudie entered the market, there weren't any mainstream juicers doing what Pethick was in his kitchen each morning, when he rose early to make up fruit juice and smoothie concoctions for his wife and daughters (and of course, himself), and so an opportunity was born.

After some deliberation, Pethick decided the best name for his company was one that summed up what his fruit was all about: nothing but the fruit, hence 'Nudie.'

From little things, big things grow

In 2003, when the company launched, there were only three people, including Pethick, one stockist, one blender and one small office in Sydney's Balmain.

They went through 256 pieces of fruit in the first week, and sold 40 bottles, mostly to family and friends.

They even went doorknocking, gave out samples and delivered Nudies personally so people could taste the goodness for themselves.

Now, more than 70 people are employed by the company, and it has over 5000 stockists throughout the country, including supermarket, cafŽ and convenience store chains, as well as independent retailers and food service operators.

Nudie goes through about 3 000 000 pieces of fruit per week these days and has a state-of-the-art juicing facility in South East Sydney.

And they're not stopping there.

"Within the last 18 months we've delivered some really strong innovation to the market," Glenn said.

"We spend a lot of time speaking to consumers and identifying trends to ensure that our product offering remains relevant.

"Our Nothing But range which was launched to address the growing consumer concerns around the use of concentrates and added ingredients in many of the other juice products on the market at the time.

"We launched with Nothing But 21 Oranges and Nothing But 20 Apples, taking nudie into the larger 'take home' segment of the market for the first time.

"In addition to the Nothing But message, we are also able to make the claim that we can get the product from farm to bottle in 72 hours, and that it is 100% Australian.

"For every 2L bottle, our farmers in regional NSW pick 21 oranges (give or take a few) and squeeze them, they then deliver this juice to our factory in Sydney where we lightly pasteurise the juice and bottle it.

"We add nothing else to the juice and the whole process from beginning to end takes no more than 72 hours.

"We believe that the quality of the fruit we use and our strict discipline around this process allows us to have such a great tasting juice, which is currently the most popular chilled juice in the Australian grocery market.

"Based on the success of these lines we have since expanded the range into a 1L and 500ml offering and have also added 3 new variants to the range."

A more informed consumer

Glenn told Food Magazine the company is always looking to innovate their products and ensure they are delivering what consumers want.

"We then became the first beverage company in Australia (and possibly the world) to add chia seeds to a beverage," he continued.

"As well as being the highest plant based source of Fibre and Omega 3, chia seeds also help to keep you feeling fuller for longer.

"We saw this as a great opportunity to create a nudie with chia seeds as a way of providing breakfast for people on the go, and have partnered with The Chia Co in Kimberley, WA to create the product."

Glenn believes the always-increasing demand for Nudie products is proof that consumers are becoming more educated about additives and their negative impacts, and turning towards healthier options.

"There has certainly been a lot of media coverage surrounding some of the added ingredients which exist in the market, and consumers seem to be better educated when it comes to choosing beverage products.

"A lot of food brands do seem to be increasing their focus on communicating what their products do not contain, which tends to suggest that this message is resonating with consumers across many areas of their grocery shop."

Keeping the good stuff

Another juice producer that is listening to the consumer demand for more fruity goodness and less additives is the Wild About Fruit Company, which produces two ranges of Low GI juices that are free from any nasties and full of flavour and health benefits.

The Wild Child "super-juices" and Wild About Juice ranges are based on apple juice sourced from orchards in the Yarra Valley and created with a "pure fruit" philosophy.

"There are no preservatives, no added sugar or water and no trendy boosts," the company told Food Magazine.

A few years ago a third generation orchardist in Victoria's Yarra valley, Ben Mould, wondered:  "Could an apple juice be made that actually tasted like a crisp orchard fresh apple, and also contain as much of the nutrients from the apple as possible?"

Knowing that crushing the apple caused oxidization, damaging the apple's delicate nutrients, which are found mainly in the skin, Mould had to develop something pretty clever.

Mould said that while most people have experienced the taste of commercially made apple juice – sickly sweet confectionary flavour that leaves a nasty after-taste, few had experienced good quality, sustainably juiced, delicious tasting real apple juice.

Even many home juicers damage the cells of the fruit and remove a lot of the apple's antioxidants.

Then, Mould's patented juicing process, which uses the whole apple, maintains the antioxidants of the fruit and has a low glycemic index (GI) was born.

Well, an apple a day does keep the doctor away!

The company says its Wild about Juice contains twice the nutritional value of the fruit than any other fruit juice on the Australian market and an independent nutritional analysis on apple juices and apple-blended products in Australia confirmed that the unique processing method employed by Wild about Juice which processes the whole fruit retains the naturally occurring phytonutrients and flavonoids contained in apples.

Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!

The company's  Wild about Juice  range of healthy juices straight from the Yarra Valley are 100 per cent Australian, with absolutely no additives and is the first and only juice in Australia to be given a low GI rating.

The GI rating refers to the different ways certain carbohydrates behave in the human body and their effect on blood glucose levels.

Low GI foods and drinks  produce only small fluctuations in blood glucose and insulin levels,  which  helps people lose and manage weight,increase the body's sensitivity to insulin, reduce the risk of heart disease and improve blood cholesterol levels.

They also leave you feeling fuller for longer, give added endurance for exercise and help re-fuel following exercise.

This 100% Australian, family-owned and operated business has been growing apples & cherries in the Yarra Valley since 1930.

Owner-operator Mould said the patented juicing process is healthier and more environmentally friendly than other juicing techniques.

"This special process extracts and retains the goodness from the fruit by also juicing the skin which contains more fibre and antioxidants than the flesh," Mould Explained.

"Wild about Juice promotes natural nutrition, as it has no preservatives or additives, and this juicing process also leaves minimal waste, making it highly sustainable."

The four powerful antioxidants that remain in the fruit through the revolutionary juicing process are catchins, a potent form of antioxidant which are good for coronary and cardiovascular health, flavanols that help in the protection of cancer and supports cardiovascular health, chalcones, known for their anti-inflammatory attributes and Phenolic Acids (Chlorogenic),  one of the most potent natural antioxidant groups known.

The Wild Child flavours consist of Green Cleanse; Antioxidant Energy; Mango Passion Veggie Detox, which are all made with using nature's own superfoods, and nothing else.

The Green Cleanse, for regeneration and rejuvenation contains apple, mango, banana, spinach, wheatgrass and spirulina to naturally detox and cleanse the body, while the Antioxidant Energy contains apple, pomegranate, blackcurrant, acai, and goji berries, in what the company describes as "the ultimate blend of the world's finest super-fruits and a natural source of antioxidants to boost energy and fight free radicals."

As these companies continue to grow, and the demand for proper, healthy juices increases, the market will see more innovation and creative combinations, and as Glenn told Food Magazine, the most important aspect for Nudie moving forward is commitment to what they do and why they do it.

"As a relatively young business just in our 10th year now, it's hard to say what the next 10 years hold in store.

"We will just make sure that we stick to the values which have got us to where we are today and continue to do what's been working for us so far."

As people become more aware of the impact of obesity and the part that food and drink consumption plays in that, there is more demand than ever for proper, traditional fruit juice.

Organics could feed the world: expert

Organic food will play a large part in feeding the growing world population, according to an expert.

TM Consultants director Tim Marshall told the ABC that families with small amounts of land in developing countries will find the greatest success by embracing organic produce.

Listen to the interview on ABC Radio here.
 

Advertising in bottle shops encourages youth binge drinking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Burger King to use roam free eggs and pigs by 2017

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

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

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

Use of gestation crates a complicated issue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Then need finances to undertake the changes.”

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

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

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

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

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

The latest trend for retailers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

US mad cow disease discovery shows good systems in place: animal groups

The discovery of mad cow disease in the US is a positive occurrence, according to some animal groups.

The United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) believe that the find shows the country’s health monitoring system is working.

“This detection demonstrates that the national surveillance system is efficient,” the OIE said.

“This case should not have implications for the current U.S. risk categorization.”

This is the first detected case of mad cow disease in the US since a mass outbreak in 2006.

The first case was discovered in 2003, on an animal that came from Canada, and since then three other herds were found to be affected.
FAO Chief Veterinary Officer Juan Lubroth said importers of US beef should be encouraged by the discovery of the disease before it entered the food chain.
“The fact that the U.S. picked it up before it entered the food chain and the fact that they were transparent should give more confidence to the trading partners, not less,” Lubroth said.
“However, I do see that sometimes countries take measures that are not based on science and that we do not support.”

Local authorities say the infected cow, from California, will not pose a threat to the nation’s food supply.

The tested positive during a routine check for the illness, or atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported.

The USDA’s chief veterinarian John Clifford said the disease didn’t enter the human food chain and has not been detected in any other animals.

USDA statements say steps taken by U.S. authorities in the case are in line with OIE standards.

“The fact that it was picked up before anything entered the food chain is significant,” Lubroth said. “It shows that the surveillance systems in place have done their job.”

About 40,000 cows are randomly tested each year in the US, which represents less than 0.1 percent of the entire number, and these regimes are not rigid enough to ensure diseased cows don’t get into the food supply, according to Michael Hansen, a staff scientist at Yonkers, New York-based advocacy group Consumers Union.

Calls for public register of foreign investment in Australian farming land

The peak farming representative group is calling for more transparency on the investments made in Australia by foreign investors.

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is calling for a compulsory national land register, to keep track of foreign interest in Australian agricultural land.

It would require any person or company not from Australia which acquire or transfer an interest in agricultural land to report the sale in a specified timeframe.

The NFF also wants the records to be made public.

“We are also calling for an annual report of the register findings to be published, summarising any changes to the holdings of agricultural land held by foreign interests,” president Jock Laurie said.

“This report will trigger an annual review of the policy settings around foreign investment, including the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) reporting threshold for agricultural land purchases by commercial interests.”

Earlier this year there were suggestions that Australians needed more transparency about modern farming practices, which were only fuelled by a Primary Industries Education Foundation research project, which found school children think yoghurt grows on trees and cotton socks are an animal product.

Laurie acknowledged the benefits foreign investment had provided for Australia’s agricultural industry, but said NFF members are concerned about the number of foreign interests in Australian farming land, which is ensuring food security for other countries and leaving us behind.

“At the core, the NFF supports foreign investment in Australian agriculture – provided that it does not negatively distort our resource allocations or outputs, does not undermine our farm gate prices, and is not undertaken with the intent of damaging competition in the marketplace,” Laurie said.

“While there have been some calls for the FIRB threshold to be lowered, we believe to do so at this point would be premature.

“This debate has long been described as a debate without data – and, in order to suggest a suitable FIRB threshold, we must first know what land is owned by whom- based on real data, not just a survey sample,” he added.

Do you agree with the suggested register? Do we need to know more about foreign farming interests in Australia?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safety In Action now on in Melbourne

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

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

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

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

Ask questions and speak to the experts personally for a more interactive, hands on experience.

Get your free health check at the WorkSafe Australia stand (L02). It takes just 15 minutes, is free free, quick and confidential.

Discover hundreds of new and existing Australian manufacturers & suppliers and thousands of new products & solutions for your industry.

Plus there’s a chance to win a share in $1,000 worth of height safety prizes including audits, inspections, training and risk assessments, just by visiting Workplace Access & Safety at stands H26 or O13.

More Australian pigs “born free”

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

More piglets have been “born free” since 2010, when pork producers agreed to voluntarily ban the use of sow stall use by 2017.

Figures from the peak pork industry group, Australian Pork Limited, show that one in three sows now spend their pregnancies outside gestation crates, but animal welfare activists say more can – and should – be done.

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

The increased hormone levels in pregnant sows can often lead to fighting between the female pigs, which can cause abortion and damage to the animal.

Housing them in the stalls allows them to be protected from other sows and to receive the proper nutrition they need during their pregnancy, which they might otherwise not receive due to hierarchy and fights over food.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But the agricultural industry is finding it hard to recruit workers, so we’re trying to source skilled labour sources from south-east asia.”

“Piggery workers have to undergo skills set training.”

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

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

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

“Then need finances to undertake the changes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“With regard to the retail sector, agreements like that are between producers and the retailer concerned, but as an industry group we are trying to ensure the welfare of animals while also pleasing consumers.

“About 65 to 70 per cent of all ham, bacon and small good products sold in Australia is made from imported pork.

“Different countries have different regulation in regards to sow stalls.

Ean Pollard, chairman of the NSW Farmers’ Association pork committee agreed that a fast-track on the ban would not be realistic for most farmers.
Australia’s biggest producer of fresh pork meat, Rivalea, began voluntarily phasing out sow stalls in 2007.

”We knew that, in terms of perceptions, it was going to be very difficult to defend [the use of sow stalls], so we did not want to end up in the situation in 10 years that we were left behind,” general manager of farming operations at Rivalea Australia, Kenton Shaw, said.

About 75 per cent of its 18,000 sow stalls have been replaced and by next year, Shaw expects there to be zero use of the stalls.

While Animals Australia has been critical of the transition process, the RSPCA has praised the pork industry’s commitment to change.

“It’s good to see this commitment by Australian pork producers and a third of sows already benefiting from a stall free environment,” RSPCA Australia CEO, Heather Neil, said.

“The RSPCA appreciates the significance of the commitment these pig producers have made and we look forward to monitoring the industry progress towards a complete end to the use of sow stalls in Australia.”

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Senator Joe Ludwig has also welcomed the action.

“The industry is making real progress towards phasing out sow stalls,” he said.

“I look forward to this level of commitment continuing as they work to achieve their end goal.”

Are you a dairy farmer? Your job is the second worst in the world

Dairy farming has been rated the second worst job in the world.

The findings of the American survey might not come as a surprise to most Australian dairy farmers, who are facing a slump in profits as the major supermarkets continue to sell milk for $1 per litre, despite a Senate Inquiry and an investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission into what the industry calls “unsustainable” prices.

Australian Dairy Association president Chris Griffin told Food Magazine earlier this year that farmers are leaving the industry in droves because they cannot manage to make a profit, or in many cases, break even.

“We know there’s been at least 30 leave the industry in Queensland alone, and the majority are sighting the uncertainty of milk prices as the reason,” he said.

Following the intense debate about the cost cutting by Coles and Woolworths and the ruling that $1 per litre was acceptable Food Magazine asked Griffin if the chances of the big two supermarkets increasing the price of milk to help with the increase in farmers’ costs would most likely be slim.

“That’s a question for Coles,” he said.

“We believe the tactic all along by Coles was just to get people through its doors, and since dairy products are in 97 per cent of consumers homes, it’s a draw card they’ve used.

“It’s always at the back end of the supermarket, so you have to walk through all the other products and displays to get to it, so it is simply a marketing ploy they’ve implemented at the expense of the dairy industry.”

When contacted by Food Magazine to find out if they would consider absorbing the cost increase, Jim Cooper from Coles said "we are not speculating about the potential impact the carbon tax will have on retail pricing."

The only profession deemed to be worse than dairy farming is being a lumberjack, according to the results collated by American HR group, CareerCast’s.

The fourth worst job is working on an oil rig, while the fifth worse is a newspaper reporter.

The best job, according to the research, is a software engineer.

The five key categories were used to determine the best and worst jobs wre physical demands, work environment, income, stress and hiring outlook.

Image: The Australian

Fresh calls for a “fat tax” in Australia

Another Australian health group has joined the chorus of organisations demanding better initiatives to encourage healthy eating.

Public Health Australia believes a “fat tax,” similar to the one introduced in Denmark last year, would enable the food industry to reverse the current discrepancies in price between junk foods and healthier alternatives.

It believes the tax on foods with a high level of saturated fat would raise money which could be used to subsidise healthier foods.

One of the problems with the current pricing of foods is that junk food manufacturers are able to mass-produce unhealthy foods for an extremely low price – burgers at McDonald’s for example, cost as little as $2 – while sourcing quality ingredients and producing healthy foods costs the manufacturer more and therefore retails at a much higher price.

This is part of the reason the peak industry body rejected the original calls for the fat tax last year.

“There is already a 10 per cent tax on processed foods – the Goods and Services Tax (GST) which came into effect in 2000,” Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) chief executive Kate Carnell said.

“Australia has had a GST on processed foods – not on fresh foods or staples – for the past decade yet obesity levels have continued to rise.

“Food taxes are regressive as they penalise people who can least afford it – fat taxes were also dismissed by last year’s Henry Tax Review.

But Public Health Australia’s chief executive Michael Moore says a tax on sugar would be no different to the tax on tobacco.

"In the end, whilst the industry is making big profits out of junk food, it’s actually the taxpayer that’s paying for the results," he said.

"And you only have to look at the health costs, and the skyrocketing health costs, relating to obesity and other dietary related diseases to realise it’s just a transfer of money from the taxpayer to big industry."

The health impacts associated with obesity have earned it the title of ‘the new smoking’ amongst many experts, and as society becomes more informed about the detriments of being overweight, behaviours are beginning to change.

The tax has been introduced in parts of the UK already, and Greggs bakery will take the Chancellor George Osborne’s decision to impose the Value Added Tax (VAT) on its hot products to court in the next six weeks.

The bakery chain, which has 1500 stores across the UK, has lost £30 million value in its shared after being reclassified as hot food, but it argues that because it makes no effort to keep the foods warm, they should be exempted from the tax.

Australian doctors are also calling for warning labels on energy drinks, while a US study found a tax on sugary drinks could save 26 000 lives per year.

Health ministers and industry rejected the compulsory traffic light labelling on the front of packaged foods, suggested by Choice, last year, but have pledged to introduce some other form of simple, front-of pack nutritional guides within the next year.

Government report shows growth in food sector

It’s certainly not all doom and gloom in Australia’s food industry, with a government report showing a 17 per cent increase in total value in 2010/11 compared to the previous period.

Food exports are up 10 per cent from the previous year, according to the Food Statistics 2020-11 report, and are now valued at $27.1 billion.

"Australia is fortunate in being a net food exporter by a significant margin, with more than half of our food production exported to international markets," federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig said.

In 2010/11, 1.68 million people were employed in the food sector, from production to food service.

It currently represents 15 per cent of total employment in Australia, an increase of two per cent on the previous year.

While the number of people employed in the sector is high, it is also a risky business to be working in, as Australian factories continue to close and companies are forced to restructure work forces to meet rising costs.

Only yesterday it was announced that 478 of Metcash employees will lose their jobs, most of them coming from the soon-to-be-closed Campbell’s Cash & Carry stores in regional Australia.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) want a Supermarket Ombudsman instated to oversee the impact of the supermarket price wars between Coles and Woolworths, after a report predicted 130 000 employees in the sector would be out of work by 2020.

Do we need tougher regulation on ‘free to roam’ claims

Farmers and suppliers who produce actual free range eggs want a crackdown on the definitions of ‘free range,’ after leading national suppliers were found to falsely make the claim.

Last year the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced it would be taking a number of chicken suppliers to court, claiming they wrongly advertised chickens as free range.

According to the ACCC, national Steggles suppliers Baiada Poultry and Barttner Enterprises, La Iconica suppliers, Turi Foods and the Australian Chicken Meat Federation were misleading or deceptive in the promotion and supply of chicken products.

It said the impression that Steggles chickens are raised in barns with plenty of room to roam freely used in the advertisement and promotion greatly influence consumers, and in reality, most of the animals have a space no larger than an A4 sheet of paper.

La Ionica’s decided to stop using the “free to roam” claim and pay the $100 000 penalty as a result of the court case, but Steggles and Baiada are refusing to bow to pressure and are instead arguing against the ACCC’s claims.

And despite John Camilleri, the managing director of Steggles’ owner Baiada Poultry ordering the ‘free to roam’ slogan be removed from packaging, frozen poultry with the claim are still being purchased.

He told the Federal Court in Melbourne earlier this month that a chicken purchased by an ACCC representative last month that had the ”free to roam in large barns” slogan on it was out of the company’s control.

While the case continues, the debate over ‘free to roam’ claims is heating up.

Paul Papalia, Western Australia’s Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Food, told the ABC this morning that consumers are still being delivered misleading information by companies finding loopholes in the ‘free range’ definitions.

"In WA there is no regulation or legislation governing the use of the term ‘free range’ and as a consequence consumers are being ripped off by some people who are claiming free range status on their eggs," he said.

"That is deceptive behaviour on behalf of some of those producers."

But the Agriculture Minister does not believe it is the state government’s responsibility to create rules around the housing of animals on farms, despite the RSPCA branding the decision by the Australian Egg Corporation to increase stock density from 1500 to 20 000 per hectare as inhumane.

"It’s not our job to regulate things that sit outside of the formal rules around animal welfare and environmental standards," he told the ABC.

While the Commercial Egg Producers Association of WA says it would welcome more regulation on the housing of animals, President John Simpson believes companies have to be realistic.

"I think we’ve got to move with the times," he said.
"We need to feed the growing population; a lesser density wouldn’t achieve those things."

A farmer of free range eggs, Jan Harwood, told the ABC that the state government needs to step in for the sake of the bird’s health and safety.

"I can’t believe the hens could express any of their normal behaviours under those conditions," she said.

"This isn’t just a marketing tool; this isn’t sustainable for the environment or for the welfare of the hens."

"I want to deal with this issue before it becomes a problem."

Harwood has been farming free range in the Margaret River region for two decades, and keeps stock density of her chickens between 1 500 and 2 500 birds per hectare.

Do you think ‘free to roam’ claims need better regulation? Do you buy roam free eggs?

The new breed of food consumer

Earlier this year, peak farming bodies voiced their alarm that a shocking 75 per cent of year six students believe cotton socks are an animal product and others think yoghurt grows on trees.

Just under half of the 300 surveyed did not know bananas, bread and cheese came from farms, leading the Australia Council of Educational Research, which conducted the study, to express its concern about the findings, which prove there is a huge disconnect between farmers and consumers.

Other industry groups are calling for more education about modern farming practices, to provide transparency and build trust of Australian products.

But a new report has identified a new breed of Australian food consumer: the urban ‘food citizen,’ who achieves social superiority by arming themselves with heightened knowledge about ethically and sustainably produced food, as Rachel Sullivan writes for CSIRO Publishing.

As Australia’s two major supermarket chains conduct a noisy price war, a quiet revolution has been taking place.

The past few years have seen the rise of food citizens: urban consumers who actively seek to secure ethically and sustainably produced food and connect with how food is grown and made.

Their interest has led to a rapid proliferation in alternative food sourcing, including farmers’ markets, food co-ops, community gardens and urban orchards, herd shares, neighbourhood cooperatives, fresh produce box schemes, farm gate trails, and informal home-grown produce trading within communities (i.e. food swaps).

The grass roots movement is starting to have an economic impact, with a recent report from the Australian Egg Corporation estimating that backyard chickens now account for nearly 12 per cent of the country’s total annual egg production.

‘We often don’t know the story behind the food we consume, but when you talk to the farmer you have a different perspective on whether something is healthy or not,’ says Nick Ray the founder of Local Harvest, an online hub that helps consumers find local farmers’ markets, community gardens, food swaps, organic and free range producers and community box systems.

‘A sustainable food system relies on us localising at least part of it, and will help make it more resilient to price hikes and potential supply issues associated with fossil fuel and fertiliser shortages.’

Kirsten Larsen from the Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab at the University of Melbourne agrees.

‘As the Queensland floods demonstrated, our current [centralised] food system is vulnerable to disruption, whether that relates to climatic extremes or other interruptions to supply,’ she says.

‘When the central wholesale market in Brisbane went underwater, significant parts of Brisbane’s supply chains were out of action.”

Organisations like Food Connect [see below] were able to quickly respond and adapt to the situation, partially because the diverse base of smaller suppliers were less affected overall by the flooding, but also because its rich social network enabled people to connect and organise food movements through (and to) flooded and cut-off areas.

‘It’s an example of how a more distributed network for food sourcing increases their strength, resilience, flexibility – and therefore security.

Not only do they connect people with farmers, they also increase connections to bigger system change.

To read the full article, click here.

Aussie kids think yoghurt grows on trees: better education needed

If anyone needed further proof that Aussie children need better education on farming, new research showing many think yoghurt is grown on trees and socks come from animals should prove the point.

Of the year six students surveyed, 75 per cent believe cotton socks come from animals and just under half did not know bananas, bread and cheese came from farms.

A young child could be forgiven for such incorrect thoughts, but considering year six students are usually 12 and going into secondary school the following year, it is apparent more education is needed.

Especially if a quarter believe yoghurt comes from trees.

Students in year 10 did not have the same problem as their younger counterparts, with more correctly identifying where pasta, scrambled eggs and yoghurt come from.

Most of them even correctly identified where pearl necklaces came from.

A total of 300 students were interviewed for the study, half from year ten and the other half were year in year six.

The Australia Council of Educational Research, which conducted the study, is concerned about the findings, which prove there is a huge disconnect between farmers and consumers.

“This should be of real concern to parents, teachers and society as a whole: if children do not understand food or where it comes from, how can we expect them to be able to make healthy, nutritious and sustainable food choices?” president Jock Laurie asked.

"Food and clothing are among the most basic of all human needs.

“It seems incredulous that children are not taught more about where these vital products come from, or what goes into growing them."

Another worrying discovery from the research was 65 per cent of students who did not associate farming with innovation.

In January this year, Australian farm groups were considering taking on a US initiative to build public trust in farming to address consumer concerns about modern agriculture and food production.

The initiative, which was established by soybean producers in 2007 and funded by farmers, farm and food organisations and private companies is committed to undertaking research to create messages to increase consumer trust and has had great success.

According to Natioanal Farmers Federation (NFF) executive officer, Matt Linegar, "agriculture’s social licences to operate "are under increasing pressure, particularly as the divide between urban and rural Australians increases.

This divide leads to a huge lack of understanding about farming and agriculture for city dwellers, who have almost permanent availability of any fruit or vegetable, despite weather conditions, which has lead many to question the storage and transport of the produce.

There is also a plethora of jobs available in the farming industry, as fewer people see it as a promising career path.

Even universities can’t get the numbers in agricultural courses, and this year, one of the oldest and most respected courses in the industry was cancelled due to lack of numbers.

Hawkesbury Agricultural College, in Sydney’s west, opened in 1891 and graduates were highly regarded in the industry.

The college was purchased by the University of Western Sydney in 1989 and has suffered declining student numbers over recent years.

With few youngsters wanting to take up the occupation, many third or fourth generation farmers leaving the industry because they can’t make a profit and the average farmer reaching retirement age, the future looks pretty grim.

“We have thousands of jobs available in agriculture and this will continue to grow as the current generation of farmers retire, which means there are enormous opportunities for students. But unless the next generation learn about agriculture and food and fibre production, it seems unlikely that they will ever consider these areas as a career,” Laurie said.

The Primary Industries Education Foundation, which commissioned the survey, wants food and fibre production included in the national curriculum.

"The people who will need to solve the problems related to food security are either currently in school or are yet to be born," chair Cameron Archer said.