Big food lagging in climate change initiatives: Oxfam

Oxfam released a report today calling out ‘laggards’ within the food and beverage industry who they say need to do more to address climate change.

The report titled Standing on the Sidelines – why food and beverage companies must do more to tackle climate change, lists Kellogg’s and General Mills among 10 global food brands that need to “up their game” on reducing emissions within their supply chain.

Kelly Dent, Oxfam Australia’s food policy specialist said that the top 10 food and beverage companies emit more greenhouse gases than Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway combined.

“If they were a single country, they would be the 25th most polluting country in the world,” said Dent.

“The ‘Big 10’ companies could cut their emissions by 80 million tonnes by 2020 – when global emissions need to start reducing in order for the world to stay within a safe climate – which would be the equivalent to taking all Australian cars off the road.”

The report lists the “Big 10” as Associated British Foods, Coca-Cola, Danone, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Mars, Mondelez International, Nestle, PepsiCo and Unilever. According to Oxfam, half of the emissions from these companies come from the production of agricultural materials from their supply chains, however these emissions are not covered by the reduction targets that the companies have set.

According to Dent, a number of the companies listed have admitted that climate change was already starting to impact on their profitability.

Unilever allegedly loses around $444 million per year, while General Mills reported losing 62 days of production in the first fiscal quarter of 2014 alone due to extreme weather events that are a result of a changing climate.

“Too many of today’s food and beverage giants are crossing their fingers and hoping that climate change won’t disrupt the food system, imagining someone else will fix it,” says Dent.

“As companies that are deeply exposed to climate impacts, it’s in the interest of food and beverage companies to see a more ambitious national and global response. We are therefore urging them to also speak up for stronger government policies and programs to tackle climate change.”


Global dairy market bottoming out, Dairy Australia

According to Dairy Australia, the global dairy market is slowing signs of bottoming out as prices continue to slowly decline.

Global Dairy Trade prices last week took a 1.1 percent hit to represent $US3950 a tonne, losing around 22.4 percent since the start of February – a key indicator that prices are “bottoming out”, according to Dairy Australia analyst, John Droppert.

Droppert told The Weekly Times that the declining auction price was a result of improved farmgate prices in the southern hemisphere coupled with the northern hemispheres peak season. Additionally, he said that the decline reflected China’s recent absence from the market, and potential discounting from New-Zealand co-operatives in order to clear product before the end of the financial year.

“Commodities have come off the last few weeks, it confirms the correction of the international markets and as a consequence we will expect lower farmgate prices than this coming season,” Droppert told The Weekly Times. “Heading into next season we are in a much better place than 2012-13 … we are back at the kind of commodity price levels of 2010-11 to 2011-12.

“We've fallen back into what is still pretty good territory.”

Bruce Donnison, ingredients and operations manager at Fonterra Australia attributes the decline to increasing supply through the global dairy market.

“In the near term, we foresee a continued softening in the market as increased production continues to come on to the market — especially from the EU and US,” he said.

“The impact of this correction in commodity prices on milk price will unfold over the next few months.”


Murray Goulburn to potentially list on the ASX

Victorian dairy cooperative, Murray Goulburn has outlined plans that will potentially see the processor generate $500m in capital over the coming three to five years.

ABC News reports that a discussion paper was recently sent out to suppliers and shareholders discussing the proposed changes, which includes potentially listing the cooperative on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX).

According to the paper, Murray Goulburn is hoping to rejuvenate its manufacturing and supply chain infrastructure by raising capital through the issuing of shares in a unit trust.

The paper outlines that a unit trust would be a far more preferable way of raising funds compared to undertaking a $500m investment purely from bank debt funding, as an increase in bank debt would mean the cooperative would be ‘very close to reaching its prudent and permitted peak borrowing levels.’

However, unit trust holders would not gain any voting rights over MG’s operations, meaning that the cooperative’s active suppliers who hold voting shares will retain their voting rights.

It is hoped that the structural changes would also encourage new suppliers to join the cooperative, resulting in the increase of Murray Goulburn’s milk supply and ultimately delivering a higher farm gate milk price.

Should the structural changes be approved, implementation would most likely take place in early 2015.


Food processors should relocate to capitalise on Asian food boom, industry analyst

According to market strategist David Thomason, Australian food processors will most likely be unable to capitalise in the Asian boom food unless they move their processing facilities to the continent, or engage in joint ventures with Asian companies.

Thomason who is a former marketing executive at Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA,) says that in addition to potentially relocating processing activities offshore, Australian competition policy needs to encourage larger Australian companies to merge.

He says that by merging larger companies, Australia’s ability to compete on a global level would be dramatically increased –  sighting New Zealand’s dairy co-operative, Fonterra as a key example of a successful international-scale player.

"The future for food manufacturing for Asia will be within Asia," Thomason told Farm Weekly.

"We have to be part of the world food scene, not just local manufacturers making products for the domestic market and looking to export some surplus."

Thomason sights the strong Australian dollar as well as exceptionally high production and labour costs as key inhibitors to the Australian food processing industry.

"Australian businesses must invest wisely in the Asian dining boom to gain capital growth, scale and profits," said Thomason at a recent food industry seminar.

"Safe and efficient food processing can now be undertaken at low-cost stable, centrally located Asian centres servicing billions of consumers, rather than just 20 million Australians."

Thomason says that while the idea of maintaining food manufacturing within Australia may be preferable for some, it is not a strategy that will enable the country to compete internationally.

"Having food plants based in Australia has a nice feeling about it, but we really need to think of Australia as part of the world scene," he said.

"…We need to partner product innovation with processing innovation and market understanding."


Bees akin to canaries in a coal mine for climate change, researcher says

New research from Adelaide’s Flinders University has found that bees will play important part in future food security due to their sensitivity to changes in climate.

Scott Groom, PhD student at Flinders University has engaged mathematical modelling to identify changes in bee populations over the past 20,000 years across the South Pacific region and says that exceptionally large declines in bee populations coincided with changes in temperature, ABC News reports.

“We see a really large decline in bee populations that coincides with the last glacial maximum (ice age), at which time we had lowering sea levels and everything getting much cooler and drier," he said.

"[Bees are] key pollinators in almost all terrestrial ecosystems and there's a really tight relationship there for them to influence ecosystems positively.

"If you see these changes in bee populations you can infer changes in the flowering plants of those regions as well, so they're really important from biodiversity’s perspective. In more recent times they're also very important for human populations because they also pollinate crops and things that are important for food security."

Groom says that prior to the ice age when temperatures rose, many bee species migrated to cooler areas, with only one hardy species able to adapt to the warmer temperature. 

"They're almost canaries in the coal mine, you can see that they're going to be the first sort of species to be impacted by changes in climate," Groom said.

"…The species that are found in these lower elevations have shown this plasticity to change and they're the ones we really want to utilise in terms of agriculture because they are generalist pollinators and are found through the archipelagos [of the South Pacific].

"By trying to understand their general biology, we can try to ensure that their populations are at their highest around agricultural crops so that we can use them as almost insurance against these declines that we're seeing in honey bee populations, which is our number one crop pollinator."

The study titled; Parallel responses of bees to Pleistocene climate change in three isolated archipelagos of the Southwestern Pacific, has been published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.


Australian Made gives evidence at country-of-origin labelling inquiry

The Australian Made Campaign appeared before the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture and Industry in Canberra this morning to give evidence to into its country of origin food labelling inquiry.

The Australian Made campaign's chief executive Ian Harrison, together with compliance and policy manager Lisa Crowe, made recommendations to the committee on how food labelling laws could be improved to support Australian growers and manufacturers. 

Harrison and Crowe stated that an effective country-of-origin labelling system that is both understood and trusted by consumers, will help combat companies that are “attempting to mislead consumers regarding their products’ true country-of-origin.”

“Today we again recommended that the regulations under Australian Consumer Law fall into line with the more stringent rules for using the Australian Made, Australian Grown logo, thereby eradicating some of the loopholes that currently exist,” Harrison said.

“Food products with high levels of imported content which undergo simple processing in Australia cannot use the green-and-gold Australian Made logo, and neither should they be able to claim that they were manufactured here under Australian Consumer Law.

“Consistent food labelling laws would provide consumers with greater certainty in the choices they make at the checkout, and support growers and manufacturers of genuine Aussie products.”

A number of Australian food processors including SPC Ardmona, Simplot and McCain have sighted the steady influx of cheap imported products together with confusing country-of-origin labelling as key factors that have  affected their market share and profitability.

“We are thrilled that this inquiry is being conducted within the House of Representatives structure – the seat of Government – because there is great potential for positive changes to be made,” Mr Harrison said.

Further evidence by other interested parties will be heard in Sydney tomorrow.


Track and trace – the benefits of global standards

GS1 Australia’s Andrew Steele reports on the importance of traceability standards and other emerging local and global supply chain initiatives.

Enhanced product traceability, faster recalls and improved consumer safety should be at the top of the agenda when an organisation is detailing its supply chain process.

Traceability is key to consumer safety and an important part of any organisation’s product recall management plan, particularly in the food industry. It makes recalls and withdrawals more efficient. It ensures proper information about unsafe products can be given to consumers in the case of a recall. Not having an effective traceability process is one of the leading causes of product recall incidents escalating into a crisis.

A Product Traceability Expert Group set up by the European Commission released the Research Support for an Informal Expert Group on Product Traceability Report in December 2013, recognising the adoption of GS1 Standards as a best practice for improving supply chain traceability and consumer product safety.

GS1 was selected as one of the 15 expert members of the Product Traceability Expert Group, which was established in 2011 by the European Commission’s Directorate General Health and Consumers to address traceability and product safety issues.

Adoption of traceability standards was just one of several recommendations highlighted in the report, released by the group following two years of industry-wide dialogue. These recommendations focus on benefits for not only businesses and consumers, but also for market surveillance authorities with the common goal of protecting public safety and health.

As supply chains continue to span the globe and consumers purchase more products online, the ability to track and trace products helps properly identify dangerous products and remove them from the supply chain more effectively.

The group’s report outlined the following recommendations:

  • For economic operators, the group recommends labelling consumer products with product identification codes and automating traceability systems using global standards such as ISO and GS1 Standards for product identification, data capture and exchange in order to strengthen consumer safety and improve traceability between trading partners across multiple countries.
  • For market surveillance and other authorities, the group recommends including the use of barcodes in training and conducting traceability assessments in cooperation with private sectors as well as developing best practices to collect information about dangerous products when they cross EU borders.
  • For consumers, the group suggests raising more awareness on the importance of product identification and helping consumers alert authorities about suspicious or potentially dangerous products.

How can the employment of global standards help improve traceability and adhere to new regulations around traceability?
GS1 Standards are used around the world to identify products and capture, record and share data about these products. This information is key in laying the groundwork for traceability. Reliable data cannot exist if traceability systems are not automated. These automated systems rely on a common language of standards in order to “talk” to each other when capturing and sharing data.

How do consumers benefit from improved product traceability?
In the event of a safety issue or recall, dangerous products can be properly identified and removed from the market faster. In addition, efficient, standards-based traceability systems improve the accuracy of product information and labels.

As supply chains often span the globe across different industries and involve raw materials, additives, other ingredients and packaging through to Point-of-Sale (POS), ensuring traceability throughout the whole supply chain has become more challenging.

The ability for a company to successfully track and trace their products through their supply chain and retrieve them from the marketplace is a key component of a product recall event.

GS1 Recallnet is GS1 Australia’s secure web-based portal for the management of recall and withdrawal notifications. Based on global GS1 Standards and best practices, GS1 Recallnet simplifies and automates the exchange of information between suppliers, distributors and retailers as well as government agencies such as Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

By increasing the speed and accuracy of recall and withdrawal notifications, introducing global standards for traceability significantly decreases business and consumer risk, reduces costs, protects brands and ultimately helps improve food safety in Australia.

Why be standard?
Well-designed supply chain standards play a very important role in day-to-day business operations because:

  • They reduce complexity between and within organisations.
  • They make it easier to make the right decisions about purchasing hardware, software and equipment.
  • They reduce the costs of implementation, integration and maintenance.
  • They facilitate collaboration between trading partners in the supply chain, in a many-to-many relationship, making it quicker and easier to identify items, share information, order and receive parts or ingredients from suppliers, or ship goods to customers.
  • They help improve patient safety and reduce medication errors.
  • They enable global traceability and authentication.

Andrew Steele is Industry Manager – Food & Beverage at GS1 Australia.

tna acquires US food processing equipment supplier FOODesign

Global food packaging solutions supplier, tna has announced its acquisition of Oregon based food processing equipment supplier, FOODesign.

The acquisition will see tna expand its current portfolio to offer food manufacturers a broad selection of processing solutions including FOODesign fryers, cookers, speciality roasting equipment, as well as baking and toasting ovens.

Managing director of tna, Michael Green said the move to purchase FOODesign will enable the company to meet the industry’s growing need for flexible and efficient turnkey solutions.

“With FOODesign providing equipment to many of the top 100 food processing companies in the world, the acquisition gives tna access to all the necessary skills, networks, market knowledge and relationships to provide customers with a new choice in processing equipment – from fryers and feed systems through to packaging and controls. We are confident that we can add value to our customers’ entire line and achieve significant economies of scale.”

Joseph Mistretta, president of FOODesign said that joining the tna group represents an exciting prospects for both the company and its customers.

“Up until now, our business has primarily focused on North America. Our acquisition by tna instantly opens up a wealth of opportunities, giving us access to a global and extensive sales network, and maximising our ability to service our international customer base more effectively.”


Arla introduces advanced whey protein concentrate into lifestyle nutrition market

European dairy company, Arla Foods Ingredients has launched its advanced whey protein concentrate, Lacprodan DI-7017 into the lifestyle nutrition market.

Initially launched into the clinical nutrition market in 2012, Lacprodan DI-7017  is a concentrate rich in the essential and branched chain amino acids that are scientifically proven to optimise the body’s muscle-building and satiety response mechanisms, and is now available for companies that are looking to tap into the ever increasing demand for high-protein products among mainstream consumers.

According to Arla, the ingredient offers quicker digestion time than casein, and is suitable for a range of food and beverage applications including long-life UHT drinks, water-based beverages and soups.

Peter Schouw Andersen, Business Development Manager for Health & Performance at Arla Foods ingredients, says that is order to capitalise on the demand for high-protein products, food and beverage manufacturers need to develop products that are easily accessible to the average consumer.

The key to tapping into this growth opportunity is to offer consumers lifestyle protein-based products that are delicious and easy to consume, since these shoppers are not willing to make the taste and convenience sacrifices accepted by niche protein consumers such as body-builders – Lacprodan DI-7017 enables food and beverage companies to do this," he says.

"It offers all the proven nutrition characteristics of whey proteins, but is also easy to use in mainstream products that consumers will love and be willing to pay a premium for."


Australian cake manufacturer on brink of collapse

An Australian cake manufacturer with a 70 year history is on the brink of collapse.

Big Sister Foods, which employees around 100 staff across its two NSW manufacturing sites, had PPB Advisory appointed as receivers on Wednesday afternoon to undertake an ‘urgent review’ of the business.

PPB Advisory’s Daniel Walley said that stakeholders will be updated on any meaningful developments regarding the review when it is practically possible to do so, The Age reports.

"We are undertaking an urgent review of the business with a view to preparing Big Sister Foods for sale as a going concern,'' said Walley in a statement.

'We will work with all stakeholders including employees and their representatives, customers and suppliers to ensure the business continues to operate effectively.''

Big Sister Foods was founded by Kenneth Higgins in 1945 and supplies cakes, muffins, mince pies and cupcakes to Australia’s major retail chains.


Australian manfacturers win as Abbott promotes Chinese trade deals

Australian manufacturers are set to benefit from a reported 20 deals that have been signed as a result of prime minister Tony Abbott’s recent Australian trade promotional visit to China.

The deals consisted of 13 commercial agreements, and another seven agreements which are ‘significant’ in nature. Victorian dairy company, Pactum Dairy Group was one of the success stories of the trip, signing a contract to supply 25 million liters of milk annually to Bright Dairy of China, the Weekly Times reports.

Trade minister Andrew Robb said that the Australian trade promotion – which took around 600 Australian companies to Shanghai and other regional cities – has provided a solid platform for Australian manufacturers to develop strong business relationships.

“Even more importantly, there are also the intangibles,” said Robb. “We built trust. We built relationships.

“And undoubtedly we built momentum in the free-trade negotiations — both by showing the strong commercial ties between our countries and the political will for an agreement.”

According to an analysis by Austrade, the combined commercial value of the 20 agreements is estimated to be worth $894m, with an additional $57m generated in separate agreements which encourages Chinese investment in Australian companies.


WA brewery forced to destroy 140,000 cartons of beer

Western Australian brewery, Gage Roads has been forced to throw out 140,000 cartons of beer, equating to a $1.12m loss in gross profit.

The company’s Palmyra plant experienced a processing fault recently which led to a compromise in the quality of the product, The West reports. The company said that it has since taken corrective action to ensure that such an event doesn’t occur in the future.

"Whilst the cause of the fault has been identified and corrective action is being taken, products manufactured during the period have not met the company's strict quality assurance standards and will not be released to market," Gage Roads said in a statement.

"This loss of gross profit will directly impact earnings in the second half of FY14."

John Hoedemaker, managing director of the brewery said that while the recent event will impact on profits, he is confident that the company will remain on track to achieve its financial future objectives.

"Our strong sales growth, customer relationships and long-term objectives of the company are on track and I remain committed to delivering on our four-year plan, including earnings growth through diversification and growth of revenue streams, improvement in manufacturing costs and taking advantage of the burgeoning craft beer market," he said.


Chobani secures US$750m from TPG

Private equity firm, TPG has announced a US$750m investment in New York based Greek yoghurt maker, Chobani in order to help the business expand its share in foreign markets.

Although the deal with TPG is in the form of a loan, The New York Times reports that TPG will also be receiving warrants that could potentially allow it to obtain up to a 35% equity stake in Chobani.

It is reported that the warrant will convert to equity should Chobani reach specific goals, with the primary goal being that of an initial public offering, or other sale.

According to the founder, chairman and chief executive of the yoghurt company, Hamdi Ulukaya, the investment will enable the company to create more innovative products and expand into new markets.

"Chobani has experienced tremendous growth and leads one of the most exciting aisles in the supermarket,” Ulukaya said in a statement. “This investment gives us additional resources to build on our momentum, fund our exciting new innovations and reach new people. Most importantly, it positions us to further deliver on our vision to provide better food for more people."

"TPG's commitment represents a belief in our vision and further validates the strength of our brand and business. We're excited to embark on this next phase with TPG," he said.


Aussie Farmers Direct to enter yoghurt market

Grocery delivery business, Aussie Farmers Direct has announced that it will be entering the yoghurt market following keen interest from a number of domestic and Asian buyers.

The company recently installed yoghurt manufacturing equipment at its Camperdown factory in Victoria and aims to have commenced commercial yoghurt production by June this year. The Camperdown factory – or Camperdown Dairy as it is now known, currently produces both conventional and organic milk and butter.

Chief executive of the Camperdown Dairy, Peter Skene said that the Dairy had received significant interest both domestically and from overseas buyers for yoghurt and butter when it initially started looking into the project around six months ago, The Weekly Times reports.

Skene says interest from China and Singapore was the result of exhibiting at a number of trade shows throughout the Asian region over the past 18 months.

Skene says that the demand for high quality yoghurt is highly encouraging.

“Sales of yoghurt are flying along at the moment,” he said.

“In addition to our own needs, there has been discussion with a number of companies for much larger quantities of yoghurt.

“We are big enough to get into the (yoghurt) business but small enough to be flexible.”

Skene says that in addition to creating to up ten additional jobs in the short to medium term, Camperdown Dairy will also be looking to expand its portfolio further to include other dairy products in the future.


Major food and automation manufacturers participate in Girls Experience Industry Day

A host of major food, beverage and automation manufacturers including ABB, Goodman Fielder, Mondelez and Coca-Cola Amatil participated in the Girls Experience Industry Day which took place in Melbourne last week and Sydney earlier this week.

Organised by The National Association of Women in Operations (NAWO) the events were designed to introduce and encourage girls aged between 14-17 to consider careers in operational roles within the R&D, innovation and technology fields.

The open days included a morning site visit to one of the participating companies where the girls learnt about the technologies and skills required in the respective businesses. The site visits were followed by a careers fair where all the participating companies came together to showcase their company and the careers available.

Rebecca Roberts, country HR manager for ABB in Australia said that ABB was pleased to participate in the event. “The girls heard from our female graduates and senior managers on their experience in working in a global engineering company and also had hands-on fun interacting with ABB’s robots and building solar powered toy cars,” said Roberts. “These are the kinds of technologies that we work with every day.”

Angela Tatlis, Chair of NAWO said that it is important to encourage girls to think about potential career opportunities at a young age.

“NAWO is creating a number of development programs and networking opportunities for women in industry, but it’s also important that we attract and engage young women in their formative years of thinking about which career path they will take. Understanding how a business runs, ie ‘the engine room’, is critical for women to be strong leaders and we are working with industry to create opportunities for women” said Tatlis.

“If you look at engineering, females comprise approximately 10 per cent of the Australian engineering labour force. This is a very low number when you consider women make up 51 percent of all professionals in Australia.”


Monster Health Food Co becomes first manufacturer to implement star rating scheme

Muesli maker, Monster Health Food Co has become the first company in Australia to roll out the Health Star Rating front of pack labelling scheme across its range of products.

Monster’s products will be hitting Coles supermarket stores across the country today, a move that has been welcomed by long standing supporter of the Health Star Rating scheme, consumer watchdog Choice.

“It’s encouraging that Monster was able to implement the Health Star Rating quickly and at minimal cost,” says Choice campaigns manager, Angela Cartwright. “Their achievement suggests the food industry lobby’s estimates about the time and money it would take to implement the system may have been seriously exaggerated.”
“We are certain other food companies who want to provide consumers with better information about their products will join Monster and shoot for the stars.” 

The Health Star Rating Scheme was developed by government, industry and public health group representatives, together with Choice last year. The scheme was designed to replace the Daily Intake Guide system by giving processed foods a rating out of five stars based on nutritional content. Products high in nutrition value receive more stars, while those foods lacking nutritional value have fewer stars.

The scheme received widespread media attention over the past few months. Assistant health minister Fiona Nash’s chief of staff, Alistair Furnival ordered the Health Department to pull down the Health Star Rating website only eight hours after it was officially launched in February this year. The website was designed to complement new rating scheme and educate consumers on how the system worked prior to it being officially rolled out later in the year.

A spokesperson for the health department said that the website was a draft’, and made live in “an inadvertent error”, claims that were widely refuted by public health groups who say that the website was pulled down due to industry influence.

Nash later revealed that Furnival had shares in his wife’s lobbying firm, Australian Public Affairs (APA) which represents snack food companies that opposed the Star Rating scheme including Mondelez.


Smartphone-readable particles could help identify counterfeit food

Chemical engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have invented a new type of tiny, smartphone-readable particle that could be used to help authenticate various products that are prone to counterfeiting such as electronics, pharmaceuticals and food.

The particles which are invisible to the naked eye, contain coloured stripes if nanocrystals which illuminate when lit up with near-infrared light. According to MIT professor, Patrick Doyle, the particles can be easily manufactured and integrated into a variety of materials as they have the ability to withstand extreme temperatures, sun exposure and heavy wear.

The particles and can also be equipped with sensors that can “record their environments.” For example, the sensors can identify if a refrigerated vaccine has been exposed to temperatures that are too high, or too low.

According to the researchers, the particles are around 200 microns long and include several stripes of different coloured nanocrystals which are doped with elements such as ytterbium, gadolinium, erbium, and thulium which emit visible colours when exposed to near-infrared light. By altering the ratios of these elements, the researchers can tune the crystals to emit any colour in the visible spectrum.

The researchers used stop-flow lithography to manufacture the particles which allows shapes to be imprinted onto parallel flowing streams of liquid monomers. Wherever pulses of ultraviolet light strike the streams, a reaction is set off that forms a solid polymeric particle.

Using this procedure the researchers say that they can generate vast quantities of unique tags. Particles that contain six stripes have up to one million different possible colour combinations – a number which is enhanced exponentially when products are tagged with more than one particle.

“It’s really a massive encoding capacity,” says Paul Bisso a graduate student and one of the research paper’s lead authors. “You can apply different combinations of 10 particles to products from now until long past our time and you’ll never get the same combination.”

The researchers say that the mircoparticles can be dispersed within packaging during the manufacturing process to authenticate the products.

“The ability to tailor the tag’s material properties without impacting the coding strategy is really powerful,” says Bisso. “What separates our system from other anti-counterfeiting technologies is this ability to rapidly and inexpensively tailor material properties to meet the needs of very different and challenging requirements, without impacting smartphone readout or requiring a complete redesign of the system.”

A paper describing the particles was published in the April 12 issue of science journal, Nature Materials.


Simplot said to be a frontrunner for Black Swan

Simplot Australia has reportedly emerged as a front runner in the bid to buy the Black Swan, seven months after going into receivership.

Expressions of interest to buy the business closed last week and The Australian reports that Simplot Australia is the leading interest party and that the Black Swan could go for as much as $50 million.

Simplot Australia is a leading Australian food manufacturer with brands such as Leggos, Birds Eye, Lean Cuisine and John West.

According to Smart Company, other big businesses rumoured to have expressed interest include Fonterra, Parmalat and Murray Goulburn.

Deloitte was appointed as administrators to Black Swan by the Family Court of Australia following a dispute involving the chief of the company.

Last year, Simplot Australia received a government grant of $500,000 for capital upgrades after nearly closing its Tasmanian Devonport plant. The company said the plant will remain in operation at least until 2016 to fulfil contracts with Coles and Woolworths. It said there would still need to be significant savings or it will potentially face closure by 2019, and that the processor’s casual workforce would experience significant job cuts.

Simplot’s Bathurst plant has also been experiencing difficulties, with the company announcing last year that the plant was under threat of closure due to a very competitive industry and unsustainably high costs.


Advanced analytical methods needed to address food fraud, says professor

Professor of Food Authenticity and Integrity at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, Saskia Van Ruth says that in order to combat food fraud effectively, information is required on the factors the can influence the vulnerability of organisations and the food chain.

Van Ruth says that ‘new unconventional fraud’ and products with labels such as ‘sustainable’, ‘biological’ or ‘animal-friendly’ call for new advanced analytical methods.

“No-one likes to be deceived and certainly not when it comes to food,” says Van Ruth.

“Products are sourced from all over of the world and the food chain has become a fragile, extensive widely-branched network, vulnerable to fraud”.

Van Ruth points to a number of recent incidents including the horse meat scandal and the use of melamine in dairy products, however she states that little is actually known about the frequency or how widespread food fraud truly is.

She says that food fraud may concern product composition, the production practice or origin of the product produced. According to Van Ruth, specific naturally occurring physical or chemical characteristics define the identity of a product, and that simple analysis of the moisture content of a product can at times provide answers as to the true origin of a product, however more complex cases require the combination of analytical chemistry and statistics. This includes looking at the relationship with the environment where food production takes place.

Van Ruth says that changes in the composition of dairy products such as the addition of protein or melamine-like substances as well as the characteristics of products such as organic egg production, the typical characteristics of speciality coffee and the origin of cocoa beans are key research areas at present.

“If something seems too good to be true, then it’s probably too good to be true”, says Saskia van Ruth.


Russia bans Australian beef exports

Russia has banned Australian chilled and frozen beef after detecting traces of trenbolone, an active ingredient in hormone growth promotants.

The ban will begin next Monday, 7 April and will have a large impact on Australia’s meat processers, ABC Rural reports.

Australian beef is the largest agricultural export to Russia, worth $110 million last year.

Australian agricultural minister Barnaby Joyce believes the ban has more to do with politics, namely Russia’s annexation of Crimea. "Well, I am disappointed. We are very stringent with what leaves Australian shores. The people who are delivering Wagyu cattle are not ones to play with the premium nature of the brand,” he said. "You are not going to find hormone growth promotants in Wagyu cattle."

In the past year, Russia has complained several times about growth promotants. Last year the Department of Agriculture investigated a complaint and found no evidence of trenbolone use. In January, Russia temporarily banned beef by-products from Australia after claiming they found trenbolone in several shipments of the product.

Two weeks ago, Russia complained and Australian officials investigated again, finding no evidence of promotant use in the cattle.

Russia has been also been tough on kangaroo exports, banning exports from Australia for four years in 2009, claiming the trade presented food safety concerns. It was not until March last year that kangaroo meat trade resumed.