Click on the headings below to read more about these items from the Consumer Federation’s July newsletter: 


CPRC Report: Consumer data & the digital economy

According to the Consumer Policy Research Centre‘s (CPRC's) recent report Consumer data & the digital economyAustralians are spending more of their lives online. 87% were active internet users in 2017, more than 17 million use social networking sites, and 84% of Australians are now buying products online.
Significant benefit and innovation can flow from open data. To deliver sustainable growth of new technologies and industries, it’s crucial that we put consumers in the driver’s seat.

Consumer advocates welcome ACCC Final Report on electricity market

Consumer advocates have welcomed the findings of the ACCC's Retail Electricity Pricing Inquiry Final Report.

Credit cards should not be a lifelong debt sentence

A proposal to prevent credit cards becoming a lifelong debt sentence has been welcomed by Consumer Action Law Centre. 

ACMA invites consumer reps to join key telco forum

The Australian Communications and Media Authority invites applications from consumer organisations to join its key telco consumer advisory group by 25 July.

Country of origin food labelling surveillance to commence

Australian consumers will have much greater certainty about the origins of the food they buy, due to the introduction of mandatory Country of Origin food labelling.

Putting the trust back into online reviews

As consumers, we want a digital world that we can trust. The recently published ISO 20488 standard on Online consumer reviews is a great tool to help with this.


Making grocery unit prices easier to notice and read


The small print sizes many businesses use to show the unit price of pre-packaged grocery and similar products is a major problem in Australia and other countries. 

What can truthfully be labelled recyclable?

With China no longer willing to accept material from Australia for potential recycling, it is time for a national discussion about what can truthfully be labelled as “recyclable” going forward in Australia. 


Validating a solar quote

Dr Martin Gill reviews a solar installer's analysis suggesting a strata complex would recover the cost of investing in a solar system in “just over 4 years”.


Guidelines for development and review of industry codes & EDR schemes

CFA has developed a set of good practice principles to offer guidance to industry bodies and EDR schemes about good practice in ensuring effective consumer input, including good practice in involving the consumer sector.
AuthorRay Dennis

Today, CHOICE released safety test results for cots and strollers showing that alarming numbers fail key safety tests. According to CHOICE:

These failures show that we need stronger product safety laws, to make sure the things we buy for ourselves and our families are safe. You can see the full list of failed products here

We deserve to be able to trust that when we buy something, it won’t hurt us or our loved ones. But right now there is no requirement in Australian consumer law that businesses make sure products are safe before they are sold.

We think this needs to change - and urgently. 

Will you join the campaign to show your support for safer products?

We need to act now, while this is in the news and politicians are paying attention. Treasury is about to start consulting on options for making our product safety laws stronger. By joining the campaign, you can show our leaders that we expect strong rules that keep dangerous products off the shelves. 

Other places, including Canada, the UK and the EU, have laws that say products must be safe in order to be sold. It's time we catch up, and make sure Australians aren't getting stuck with dodgy, dangerous goods.

P.S. If you'd like more information on the products that have failed CHOICE tests, you can read all about it here. "

AuthorRay Dennis

Latest in an occasional series of reports on food matters of interest to consumers, compiled by Consumers SA Executive member Elaine Attwood.

 Slashing sugar: Biggest Australian beverage companies to cut content by 20% over next seven years.

A 20% sugar reduction across non-alcoholic products will take place in Australia by 2025, the nation’s Beverages Council has announced. Around 80% of the non-alcoholic beverage industry, including Coca-Cola South Pacific, Coca-Cola Amatil, PepsiCo, Asahi Beverages and Frucor  Suntory have pledged their commitment to the initiative.

The plan will be carried out in two phases, namely a 10% sugar reduction by 2020 from 2016 levels, which will then be followed by a total reduction of 20% by 2025. The sugar reduction plan will affect carbonated fruit drinks, energy drinks, sports and electrolyte drinks, frozen drinks, bottled and packaged waters, juice and fruit drinks, cordials, iced teas, ready to drink coffee’s, flavoured milk products and flavoured plant milks. The Council said the move is to promote healthier lifestyles and to tackle obesity in Australia.

“This commitment is the first example in Australia where an industry as a whole has self regulated its use of sugar in this manner,” said Geoff Parker, chief executive officer at the Australian Beverages Council. The companies’ progress in sugar reduction will be evaluated by an independent auditor, which will be appointed by the Council.

Bearing in mind the need for consumers’ choice, Mr Parker added that the high sugar versions of drinks such as Coke would “absolutely” still be available.

Source: https:///

Author: Tingmin Koe: 2018 William Reed Pty. Ltd 

Toothpaste and hand wash boost antibiotic resistance.

A common ingredient in toothpaste and hand wash could be contributing to antibiotic resistance, new research suggests. Scientists identified the chemical triclosan, a compound used in more than 2000 personal care products, which finds its way into the water system.

“Wastewater from residential areas has similar or even higher levels of antibiotic resistant bacteria and antibiotic resistant genes compared to hospitals, where you would expect greater antibiotic concentrations,” Dr. Jianhu Guo of the University of Queensland’s Advanced Water Management Centre, who led the study, says.

Dr Guo said that few researchers have focused on non – antibiotic, antimicrobial chemicals in connection with antibiotic resistance. “These chemicals are used in much larger quantities at an everyday level, so you end up with high residual levels in the wider environment, which can induce multi – drug resistance.”

Advanced Water Management Centre Director, Professor Zhiguo Yuan, said the discovery should be a wake-up call to re-evaluate the potential impact of such chemicals.


Credit:  22/6/18 Australia’s Science Channel 

Is Australia ready for a nationwide single – use plastics ban?

An Australian Senate Inquiry has recommended a nationwide ban on all single – use plastics, which will include plastic bags, takeaway containers, plastic – lined coffee cups and chip packets, by 2023. Separately, from July 1, single – use plastic bags have been banned in all but two Australian states, Victoria and New South Wales, while the top two supermarket chains, Coles and Woolworths, have also instituted a nationwide band.

The Senate’s comprehensive report into Australia’s ongoing recycling crisis called for the promotion of a national “circular economy”, in which all waste materials can be recovered and reused within the country. Vital to this is the recommended establishment of a National Deposit Container Scheme to collect waste and develop high – revenue streams.

Previously it has been reported that the Australian federal and state governments had set a target for all packaging in the country to be reusable, compostable or recyclable by 2025. About 35% of Australia’s recycled plastics and 30% of recyclable paper and cardboard have been affected by China refusing to take our recycled waste from January this year, and has resulted in a shortage of landfills and an excess in stockpiles in the country.

Dr Robert Crocker, Carbon Reduction Commitment researcher at the University of South Australia, commented, “We presently lack industrial experience and expertise in the kinds of high – tech recycling currently undertaken in Europe and China. We need to invest in developing or redeveloping these skills in Australia so that we can responsibly manage our own wastes and re- use our resources more profitably. This will mean funding research and education in “resource management” and not just pretending it’s all about just “recycling” a few cans. Most single – use plastics are now produced in billions. We need to develop legislation that can weed out these problem plastics from entering the market before they take hold and become a danger to the environment.”

According to a Parliament of Australia report in 2016, Australians use 3.92 billion light weight plastic grocery bags in the year, and it is estimated that approximately 80 million bags become litter each year.


Author: Lester Wan: William Reed Business Media Ltd

Health snippet: At last! We now know how this anti-cancer gene works.          

Mutations in this gene are responsible for half of human cancers. Nearly 40 years ago a gene was discovered which laid the foundations of our understanding of how our own bodies stop rogue cells turning into cancerous ones. The gene, called p53 regulates how cells react to various stresses and instruct an out-of-control cell to stop multiplying or die.

For the first time, Melbourne scientists have found that a specific group of genes that work in the body’s normal DNA repair process, are vital to p53’s effectiveness in stopping cancer.

“It is defects (mutations) in this gene that actually causing 50% of human cancers,” says lead author Dr Ana Janic. “It’s really exciting because we’ve kind of opened the window for many new discoveries in this area.” The researchers meticulously screened more than 300 genes directly regulated by p53 to identify which ones were critical for its tumour – suppressing function. The research team discovered that the DNA repair gene MLH1 as well as other related genes are critical to p53’s ability to prevent the development of B – cell lymphomas.

Dr Janic says that while the results may take several years to translate into a treatment it provides a pathway for personalised treatment options for many types of cancer. “For instance, if a patient has lymphoma with a mutation that disables the DNA repair mechanism, doctors will now know to avoid certain DNA damaging treatments, like chemotherapy, that may only make the cancer more aggressive,” she said. The next steps will focus on understanding if the DNA repair process has the same cancer – blocking impact on cancers other than lymphoma, such as colon cancers in which 70% are caused by p53 mutations.

Source: Nature Medicine:

Note:  For full details of the above articles, please go to the reference provided.

AuthorRay Dennis

Two years ago the government announced new Country of Origin laws.  Industry was given two years to comply and - as of 1 July - the labelling is now mandatory.

There are four categories that can be identified for consumer benefit:

  • Grown in...
  • Produced in...
  • Made in...   
  • Packed in...

Country of Origin must be identified, or if a mix of foods from different countries, a retailer can choose to state each Country of Origin in the mix, or label that it is a mix of of local and imported food or a mix of imported foods. 

The new rules do not apply to the hospitality industry and therefore restaurants are free to import foods and not declare their origin. 

The government has said it will be watching for non-compliance. Foods produced before 1 July 2018 are exempt.

For further information, visit the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission at:

AuthorRay Dennis

Latest in an occasional series of reports on food matters of interest to consumers, compiled by Consumers SA Executive member Elaine Attwood.

Graphic warning labels ‘most effective in reducing consumers’ tendencies to buy sugar-sweetened beverages.

Front of Pack (FOP) labels with graphic warnings are the most effective in reducing intended sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) purchases, according to researchers from Australia.

They argue that labels showing decayed teeth and warning text are able to reduce the number of SSB consumers  by 36%.  SSBs refer to any non-alcoholic drink with added sugar including soft drinks, flavoured waters, energy drinks, iced tea and fruit drinks (with added sugar).

The research conducted by the Global Obesity Centre, Monash University Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food, and the NSW Ministry of Health recruited 994 participants aged between 18 and 35 last year.

It was found that participants who were exposed to both graphic and text warnings were least likely to buy an SSB. Only 28% of them will choose an SSB, as compared to the control group, where 64% of them will choose an SSB. 

The study also suggested that the warning labels will raise the health awareness of the participants, influencing them to consider the healthiness of the drink, (HSR) before making the decision to buy the product. Of the four types of warning labelling, the HSR is the only existing FOP label in the Australian market, introduced by the government in 2014.

Source: Appetite DOI:10.1016/j.appet.2018.05.149

Natassja Billich, et al: ‘The effect of sugar-sweetened beverage front-of-pack labels on drink selection, health knowledge and awareness: an online randomised controlled trial.’  Foodnavigator 19/6/18, reported by Tingmin Koe: William Reed Business Media Ltd. 

Ground-breaking food bacteria scanner in New Zealand will have ‘global impact’

A ‘game-changing’ scanner that can quickly identify harmful strains of bacteria in food has just arrived in New Zealand.

The scanner, called a BEAM device, was developed at Purdue University in the United States with an initial focus on the US market. The only device of its kind outside the US, it has since been offered free of charge to Associate Professor Stephen On of Lincoln University in Canterbury, NZ.. This initiative was a result of a partnership between Dr On, a taxonomy expert – specialising in classification, especially of organisms – and two senior US food safety researchers.

Dr On recently received an $80,000 catalyst grant from the New Zealand Royal Society Te Aparangi to use the scanner for locally focused research that will complement the studies already being undertaken in the US. Lincoln University said the resulting data will be pooled for “maximum global impact”.

The  BEAM scanner is designed to better identify disease outbreak by providing a “specific fingerprint” of bacteria cultured on a standard agar media plate. This allows scientists to pinpoint strains of interest more quickly, with a particular focus on pathogens.

Dr. On said the economic and public health significance of pathogenic E. coli remained of critical importance and partners of the New Zealand Food Safety and Science Research Centre (including ESR and Plant and Food Research) had identified other bacterial pathogens of concern, such as Campylobacter and Listeria.

Source:…. campaign=03-May-2018&c=3m8edsarlGQn8GpqVYxSs74cRzQX6Jd9&p2

Author: Lester Wan: 2018: William Reed Business M:edia Ltd

WHO urges ban on industrial trans-fats by 2023.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called upon governments to eliminate industrially produced trans–fatty acids from the food supply by 2023. The agency estimates that every year trans- fat intake leads to more than 500,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease. Industrially produced trans – fats are found in hardened vegetable fats, such as margarine, and often in snacks, baked and fried foods. Manufacturers use them as they have a longer shelf life than other fats. Trans–fatty acids can also occur naturally in meat and dairy products from ruminant animals (e.g. cattle, sheep, goats et cetera).

The six step guide called REPLACE comes after WHO opened a consultation until 1 June to review draft guidelines on intake of trans–fats and saturated fats for adults and children. WHO recommend total trans–fat intake be limited to less than 1% of total energy intake, which is less than 2.2g  a day with a 2000 calorie diet. It said diets high in trans–fat increase heart disease risk by 21% and deaths by 28%.

REPLACE means:-

  • REview dietary sources of industrially produced fats and the landscape for required policy change
  • Promote replacement of industrially-produced trans-fats with healthier fats and oils.
  • Legislate or enact regulatory actions to eliminate industrially-produced trans fats.
  • Assess and monitor trans-fats content in food supply and changes in trans-fat consumption in the population.
  • Create awareness of negative health impacts of trans-fats among policy makers, producers suppliers and the public.
  • Enforce compliance of policies and regulations.


Author: Joseph James Whitworth: 2018 William Reed Business Media Ltd

France looks set to ban titanium dioxide.

As France looks poised to ban titanium dioxide by the end of 2018, the government has praised “pioneering” manufacturers for voluntarily removing the colouring from food products. “We want to ban the use of this food additive in France by the end of the year,” Sec of State to the Minister for Ecological and Solidarity Transition, Brune Poirson, told French national Le Parisien last week. French policymakers have already prepared an amendment to the draft law as part of the General States of the Food Industry that allows it, “if necessary”, to ban titanium dioxide and its use in food by the end of 2018. The additive has no nutritional value and “it’s only virtue is aesthetic”, the government said.

Listed as E 171 in Europe, titanium dioxide is a colouring, mainly used in sweets, chewing gum, bakery and sauces to give a white, opaque or cloudy effect. It is also a principal component in sunscreen because it reflects UV light, and is used in toothpaste and paint.

However, the UN’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified it as a possible human carcinogen.


Author: Niamh Michail : 2018 William Reed Business Media Ltd 

Please check references for full reports of these articles.

AuthorRay Dennis

As a member of SA Water’s Customer Advisory Group, Consumer SA’s Elaine Attwood received the following information from SA Water earlier this month:

"On 14 June 2018 the Minister for Environment and Water announced the 2018-19 water and sewerage prices.

SA Water has continued our commitment to keeping water and sewerage prices for South Australians as low and stable as possible, with 2018-19 price adjustments to be capped at 1.9 per cent on average, to reflect the Consumer Price Index (CPI).*

For the average metropolitan residential customer, this will mean a combined water and sewerage bill increase of around $23.**

We understand the importance of both being able to manage cost of living pressures and receiving a quality water and sewerage service.

Since economic regulation was introduced in 2013-14, the average household has seen a 5.5 per cent decrease – or a reduction of $73 – in combined water and sewerage bills.

This has been made possible through our continuous careful management of operating expenses and prioritisation of major works.

Our prices take into account a range of different factors, including the cost to provide, sustain and enhance the delivery of water and sewerage services across the state.

Under state-wide pricing, most of our customers pay the same price per kilolitre of water, regardless of where they live or the cost of providing the service to that location. Sewerage prices are also designed so average bills are as consistent as possible across the state.

We continue to perform favourably when compared to interstate counterparts.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology’s most recent National Performance Report (2016-17), which analyses the performance of water utilities across the country, our annual residential combined water and sewerage bill (based on 200 kilolitres) was eighth cheapest among 14 comparably-sized utilities, and mid-range when compared to all organisations that reported for this measure.

A full schedule of our current fees and charges is available at The 2018-19 prices will be available on our website before 1 July 2018.

*March Consumer Price Index, All Groups Index Number (weighted average of eight capital cities) published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, to align to ESCOSA’s 2016-20 revenue determination.

 **Based on the average metropolitan residential water use of 184 kL and property value of $447,000."

AuthorRay Dennis

Consumers International, the membership organisation for consumer groups around the world, has released a 60-second spoof advert ‘Huggy Bug Your Family’, highlighting some of the problems found in internet-connected children’s products.

The film was launched at the G20 Consumer Summit in Buenos Aires, bringing together governments, consumer advocates, digital experts and international businesses to address the issue of Internet of Things children’s toys, games, apps and products.

Testing by consumer rights organisations has uncovered weak security in many of these products as well as invasive data collection and privacy features. There is currently no effective regulation of these products, and little consumer understanding of how they function or their faults. 

Consumers International is calling on the G20 countries to improve the security and data protection of children’s connected products and services over the next year and support greater international co-operation on the topic.  

Consumers International believes in a world where everyone has access to safe and sustainable goods and services. It brings together over 200 member organisations in more than 100 countries to empower and champion the rights of consumers everywhere.


AuthorRay Dennis

Latest in an occasional series of reports on food matters of interest to consumers, compiled by Consumers SA Executive member Elaine Attwood. 

EU Member States back neonicotinoid ban.

European Union member states have voted in favour of Commission proposals for an almost total ban on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in the EU.

In a vote on 27 April, countries representing 76.1% of the EU population backed the plan to clamp down on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, the use of which has been associated with declining bee populations. The move represents a major extension of an existing partial ban. Since 2013, three neonicotinoids - Bayer’s imidacloprid and clothianidin and Syngenta’s thiamethoxam - have been prohibited in the European Union. The proposal blocks the use of neonicotinoids to control pests in open fields but does not extend to permanent greenhouses.

Author: Katy Askew,  27 April 2018 - William Reed Business Media Ltd.


New form of DNA found in human cell

Even the smallest of packages can have the biggest surprises. Scientists have finally identified a twisted knot of DNA, the i- motif inside living cells. This new shape is a four stranded knot of DNA.  DNA is known for its iconic double helix shape but DNA is not bound to just one configuration. While the DNA takes on its double helix form to efficiently store the genetic code, it also needs to adopt structural changes when that information needs to be accessed.

The i-motif forms, dissolves and forms again.

Scientists have known about i-motifs for some time but this is the first time that they have been seen inside a living cell. This resolves previous doubts about whether the i-motif could exist inside living cells.

“This new research reminds us that totally different DNA structures exist – and could well be important for ourselves,” says Daniel Christ, who co-led the research.

Author: Kelly Wong:  Australia’s Science Channel,  26 April 2018. The research is published in Nature Chemistry.


Record plastic and other waste pollutes the Arctic

It’s depressing but probably not surprising to learn that there is more micro plastic in Arctic sea ice than ever before. Many of the particles of plastic in the Arctic sea ice are so small that they could easily be ingested by arctic microorganisms - and that has scientists particularly concerned.

“No one can say for certain how harmful these tiny plastic particles are for marine life, or ultimately also for human beings,” biologist Dr Ilka Peeken notes. Peeken and colleagues from the Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research gathered ice samples from five regions during three expeditions over the spring and summer of 2014 – 15.

These samples were found to contain up to 12,000 microplastic particles per litre of ice. More than half of the particles were less than 1/20 of a millimetre wide. Two thirds belong to the smallest scale category of microplastic – “50 µm and smaller”. Microplastic refers to plastic particles, fibres, pellets and other fragments with a length, width or diameter ranging from a few micrometers to under 5 mm.

The researchers say the different types of plastic showed a unique footprint in the ice allowing them to trace them back to possible sources. For example the high percentage of paint and nylon particles pointed to the intensified shipping and fishing activities in some parts of the Arctic Ocean.

In all, the researchers found 17 different types of plastic in the sea ice, including packaging materials like polyethylene and polypropylene as well as paints, nylon polyester and cellulose.

Author: Nick Carne, Australia’s Science Channel, 26 April 2018


Note: Please check references for the complete article. 







AuthorRay Dennis


Latest in an occasional series of reports on food matters of interest to consumers, compiled by Consumers SA Executive member Elaine Attwood. 

Red and Processed meat under spotlight again with links to liver disease.

Red and processed meat consumption - already linked to cancer, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease - has now been associated with a higher risk on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Writing in the Journal of HepatologyIsraeli researchers point to the foods’ intake as factors in the onset of NAFLD and insulin resistance (IR), regardless of saturated fat intake. In addition high consumption of meat cooked by unhealthy methods, and high heterocyclic amine (HCA) intake – a product of cooking meat at high temperatures – are associated with IR and thus contribute in the development of NAFLD.

“Unhealthy Western lifestyle plays a major role in the development and progression of NAFLD, namely, lack of physical activity and high consumption of fructose and saturated fat’, said Professor Shira Zelber-Sagi, lead investigator based at the School of Public Health, Faculty of Social Welfare and Health Sciences, University of Haifa, Israel.

The conclusions come as the condition is increasingly being recognised as a major global health burden in both developed and developing countries.

22 March 2018. Published online ahead of print: DOI: 10-.1016/j.jhep.2018.01.015

Authors: Shira Zelber-Sagi, Dana Ivancovsky-Wajcman. Naomi Fliss Isakov, Muriel Webb, Dana Orenstein, Oren Shibolet, Revital Kariv, Will Chu.

Source: www://…m_campaign=22-Mar-2018&c=3m8edsarlGReGATz9BH9TOwsat3syjfy&p2=

Credit: 2018 William Reed Business Media Ltd. 

Rivers clogged with micro–plastics – until the floods come

Sections of some rivers in the UK near urban areas can carry as much as 517,000 micro-plastic particles per square metre, researchers have found. While the issue of micro–plastics in the ocean has been well studied, their presence in freshwater sources have been largely overlooked.

Now research led by geographer Rachel Hurley from the University of Manchester UK, has found that it is very likely every watercourse in England, even the smallest, are contaminated. In a paper published in the journal Nature Geoscience, Hurley and colleagues report sampling 40 freshwater sources in North – Western England and finding all of them carrying heavy loads of micro – plastics. Unlike oceans, rivers can be subject to national flushing systems – floods.

16 March 2018 


Credit: Australia’s Science Channel  16/3/18

Bayn uses E-sensory tech to enhance sugar-reduced gingerbread taste

The company Bayn details the use of electronic sensory (E-sensory) technology that determines the aroma profile of a sugar– educed food to mimic the taste of the original full sugar version. This technique, which uses gas chromatography to build up a database of molecule aroma profiles, isolated cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and clove as key ingredients in creating the gingerbread flavour. 

“By mapping the aroma profile, we found that possibly more cinnamon and orange peel could be added to the sugar reduced dough, recipe one, to make the aroma profile more like the original recipe,” the Swedish ingredient firm’s White Paper outlined.

By building databases of E-sensory data from a larger number of samples, changes to the texture, sweetness and matrix effects of the food as a result of the sugar reducing measures, can be mitigated.  To replace sugar is not an easy task for the food industry as sugar is not only added to sweeten, and also plays an important role for texture, taste and colour,” said Mathias Lundgren, physical chemistry, Bayn Europe AB. “Looking at results from the study I believe using modern technology, such as E–sensory, can be an excellent and effective tool to reach healthier sugar reduced products.”

9 April 2018

Author: Will Chu


Credit: 2018  William Reed Business Media Ltd.

Ultra-processed food may be linked to cancer: BMJ study

There may be a causal link between eating highly processed food and cancer risk, and four reasons why this could be, according to the authors of a 105,000–strong French study published by the British Medical Journal.

Looking at food consumption data for 104,980 individuals, the researchers noted that a 10% increase in the proportion of ultra processed foods in the diet was associated with significant increases of 12% in the risk of overall cancer and 11% in the risk of breast cancer.

The researchers took data from the French NutriNet-Sante cohort, which asked participants to fill in repeated 24-hour dietary records for 3,300 food items between 2009 and 2017. The scientists then used the NOVA food classification system, developed by Brazilian researcher Carlos Augusto Monteiro, to determine which food & drink products were “ultra-– processed”.

The NOVA classification system is relatively new, devised in 2009, and includes four groups:

Group 1: unprocessed or minimally processed foods such as fresh, dry or frozen fruit and vegetables; packaged grains and pulses; flours made from corn, wheat, rye; pasta; eggs; fresh or frozen meat and fish and milk.

Group 2: processed culinary ingredients such as sugar, oils, fats, salt and other substances extracted from foods or nature used to season and cook.

Group 3: processed foods such as vegetables in brine, fruit syrup, salted meat and fish, cheese and freshly made unpackaged breads.

Group 4: ultra–processed foods, including soft drinks, package snacks and confectionery; mass produced package bread; reconstituted meat such as hotdogs and chicken nuggets, instant soup and noodles and industrially preprepared pizzas, pies and ready meals.

“Ultra processed foods are also aggressively marketed often in big portion sizes and are typically designed to be consumed as snacks rather than as regular meals. All these factors induce energy over–consumption and thus overweight and obesity,” write the authors.

15 February 2018

Author: Niamh Michail 

Source:…tm_campaign=20-Feb-2018&c=3m8edsarlGTW15SrgRll5gQHgTHirNJf &p2=

Credit2018 - William Reed Business Media Ltd

NOTE: Full copies off the papers may be obtained from the references.

AuthorRay Dennis

15 March marks World Consumer Rights Day and to celebrate the occasion this year two members of the CSA Executive Committee, Elaine Attwood and John Furbank, travelled to Sydney and joined audience for the Ruby Hutchinson Memorial Lecture’

Ruby Hutchison MLC was the first woman to be elected to the Western Australian Legislative Council (in 1954). Ruby founded the Australian Consumers' Association (ACA) known today as CHOICE. The success of  the ACA in the 1960s paved the way for the Whitlam government’s Trade Practices Act of 1975, a landmark piece of consumer protection legislation.

Every year on the eve of World Consumer Rights Day, a speaker is invited to deliver the Ruby Hutchison Memorial Lecture in an effort to keep Ruby's spirit alive in Australian consumer affairs.’

The lecture is a CHOICE and ACCC co-project. Notable speakers have included former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke, US consumer rights icon Ralph Nader, and more recently, veteran journalist Ross Gittins and former federal government minister Susan Ryan AO.

The 2018 Ruby Hutchison Memorial Lecture was hosted by the ACCC and Choice.  This year’s lecture was delivered by Fiona Guthrie AM, Chief Executive Officer of Financial Counselling Australia. 

Fiona titled her lecture ‘The fourth wave’ and provided a thought provoking lecture delivered from the heart with the message not to penalise the poor for being poor. Fiona described the first three waves of consumer policy development, leading us to what a future could look like - ‘The fourth wave’ of consumerism which was people-centered, with empathy and kindness; new business models; responsibility-based regulation and a strong consumer movement. In short, it is all about trust. 

Elaine Attwood and John Furbank


AuthorRay Dennis


Sydney, 15th March, 2018.

Every year World Consumer Rights Day is celebrated on 15 March. To mark the occasion this year two members of the CSA Executive Committee, John Furbank and Elaine Attwood, travelled to Sydney to attend the 2018 National Consumer Congress - hosted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

This year the congress featured important issues impacting consumers in a world of continually evolving markets. The day featured familiar sessions on: product safety, financial services and credit reform and also introduced delegates to:  the power of algorithms to manipulate data, the challenges facing consumers with retirement villages  and the ‘Internet of Things’ - a network of internet-connected objects able to collect and exchange data using embedded sensors.

The meeting was opened by Delia Rickard, Deputy Chair, ACCC.  Delegates were officially welcomed by the Hon Matthew Keen MP, NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, who stated that trust is the foundation of markets and products.

Rod Sims, Chairman, ACCC said 2018 being a big year for product safety.  There are 66 compulsory safety standards now in place. Other important issues are the general safety provision in the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) and  increased penalties for breaches of the ACL.

The first premise of the general safety provision is ‘do no harm’ - people expect products to be safe and the ACCC needs to be proactive rather than reactive. There will be some resistance to this provision and ACCC needs to work out how a business can comply, but it shouldn’t impose greater cost to business as it is in their interests as well. The UK, EC, Canada and Singapore all have such provisions - it creates trust.

Consumer law has been the ‘poor cousin’ to competition law and there is a Bill before parliament to address raising ACL penalties to match those of competition, e.g. $10,000,000 or 10% of turnover. 

Better compliance and enforcement are needed with compensation in financial services, mortgage interest rates (A paper released on 15 March), access to data, (with the ACCC the lead regulator), and the digital platforms inquiry. A list of the ACCC product safety priorities was made available.

Minister the Hon. Michael Sukkar, MP, Minister to the Commonwealth Treasurer spoke of the need to be continually seeking consumer views, and said the ACL is strong and effective. Planning is taking place with regard to data and consumers rights in relation to their own data. Banking will also come under scrutiny as will servicing of vehicles to ensure consumers can choose who does their repairs.

Some changes to the ACL have been identified; these findings will be made available in August. They should cover price transparency and extend unconscionable conduct provisions with increased penalties particularly for misleading conduct. A general safety provisions paper will be released later in the year inviting consumer input.

Other areas being addressed are the ticket scalping and fees for paper bills where a national approach is required. The Minister said that the Commonwealth was supportive of legislation regarding gift cards introduced in New South Wales. Retirement villages are another priority for consumer protection and investigation has begun to see if the Commonwealth has a role to play here.

 A panel discussion entitled ‘Managing your data – is there an algorithm for that?”moderated by Lyria Bennett Moses, Associate Professor, UNSW Law.

 Panelists: Prof James Arvanitakis, Pro-Vice Chancellor), Western Sydney University

Kate Carruthers, Chief Data and Analytics Officer, UNSW Sydney

 Viveka Weiley, Head of New Things, CHOICE.

Panelists told delegates:

Data is a two-edged sword and a filter was needed for ethics, especially for business.  The risk is what it is done with the data - it is powerful, frightening and exciting. Four big companies are accumulating data.  It was stated that Facebook is manipulating people’s emotions.  Artificial intelligence and robotics are coming into play. The problem is that when machines make decisions there is no human interaction. No data is neutral, but what you don’t put in is inherently biased.  Google and UTube can take a person to extremes (e.g. more and more violent videos), and they do this to keep the person watching for higher engagement. Oddly, women have more on screen/dialogue in horror movies than men do. 

Differential online pricing was considered unfair, for example, business to consumer transactions will need to employ ethics in their dealings. Initially OPAL (travel cards in NSW) was found to be tracking concession card holders, but this has now been legislated against.

China is presently bringing in data, which in the extreme, could prevent a person from’for example, buying a ticket for something.  Google has created a language that other Google machines can speak to, which is out of the public’s control and may have unintended  consequences. Human brains may not be able to understand what the machines know.

Universities have no restriction on their use of data, but institutions need to look at ethical consequences. Machines will talk to machines without human oversight and a decision will result. The question is how to make that accountable.  The UNSW has a data governance system in place which takes into account risk, compliance and privacy. Machines could have anti-discrimination/law compliance built into them. 

From research undertaken, consumers are aware of data collection, but not who is using it, how it is being used and why, or who is selling it. 

Keynote Address - Alan Kirkland, CEO CHOICE.

Mr. Kirkland said CHOICE has an emphasis on financial services: new credit card reforms and insurance reform. He was pleased that ASIC had an intervention power provision underway which was needed to regain consumer trust in the financial system.

He spoke of a report, ‘Dirty Little Secrets’ which revealed the problems arising from some financial advice and practices which caused consumer detriment on a huge scale.

CHOICE’s watch list includes:

  • Insurance -add on or ‘junk’ insurance consumers are offered and bundled with credit cards, car sales etc.
  • Electricity - ripping off vulnerable consumers. People often find themselves on the default plan. The standing offer was the worst on the market and he sees as much frustration in the energy sector as with finance.
  • Renting:The problems here are yet to be fixed. Renters have a fear of complaining in case they are discriminated against. The market is fragmented, vague and lacks a clear purpose. Australia needs to move to principle based modern laws

 Panel Discussion: Happy Retirement - not just a glossy brochure? 

Moderated by Sarah Danckert, Journalist, Fairfax Newspapersauthor of a recent report on the problems associated with Retirement Villages.

PanelistsDenise Boyd, Director, Policy and Campaign, Consumer action Law Centre

James Kelly, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Lifestyle Communities

Ian Yates AM, Chief Executive, COTA Australia.

Panelists said:

Moving into a Retirement Village could be an exciting process but so often ends in litigation. There is a severe power imbalance between the parties, it is costly, complex and people need help to exit if they want to. There should be an alternative to the adversarial process now in place and Tribunals are not ‘fit for purpose’; as they have been tacked onto existing processes.  Most people do not understand what they have signed and any contract should be under the auspices of ASIC. 

Presently 18 months compulsory acquisition is being legislated for which is better than some situations when people exiting a retirement village have had to wait much longer for settlement. There is a concern that the larger companies may swallow the smaller ones if there is too short a time frame for settlement.

At present the States regulate retirement villages but it maybe that there is a role for the Commonwealth. Mediation may be a better way to go and any internal dispute resolution should be well carried out. There was a view that the dispute resolution process should be funded by the industry and decisions should be binding.

As the ACL covers the whole country, it was queried why t the same laws are not Australia wide for retirement villages?  Some contracts are over 100 pages - felt to be too long. Research shows that less that 50% of residents are aware of the dispute resolution process.  In New Zealand they have a Statutory Supervisor who looks at any dispute and the system works well.

As most contracts are really renting under a leasing system the question was asked why it could not be regulated under credit laws. People do not always realise that they are buying a ‘right to reside’, not the property. 

Under the Lifestyle Communities Villages, residents own their home under a 99 year leasehold arrangement. The house may be sold on the open market at any time.  

Deferred Management Fee (DMF) where 20% is paid for the upkeep upon sale. The house may have either increased or decreased in value. He concluded by saying the industry should be considered a ‘people industry, not a property industry.’

Panel members felt that the landlord should be responsible for any capital cost upgrade. Retirement village places are sold as real estate t and therefore customers feel they are ‘buying’ a property which is not the situation.

Contracts are woeful and even lawyers may not be familiar with the Act to know whether the contract offered is good for the client. It may comply with the law, but not be conducive to the needs of the client. Financial advice is also needed by those intending to move to a retirement village and making sure they understand the contract.

It was thought that, as older people no longer acquire assets, they are ripe for exploitation. 

Panel Discussion: Are consumers enjoying the full benefits of competition?


Dr. Ron Ben-David, Chairperson, Essential Services Commission, Victoria

Christine Cupitt, Executive Director, Policy, Australian Banking association

Rod Sims, Chairman, ACCC

David Tennant, CEO, Family Care

Daniel Wood Program Director, Budget Policy and Institutional Reform - Gratton Institute

The panel acknowledged that poor people pay more. Energy is the worst case of competition market failure. For poor people the right to consume may not be available. They are already under duress caused by being unable to access supply.  The energy market may be ‘contestable’ but it is not fair.  There are always losers when markets fail and in this case it amounts to a ‘war on the poor’.

Keynote address: Dr Kate Mathews, Hon. Teaching Fellow, Bond University Consumer protection in a brave new world - the innovative disruption of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Dr. Mathews stated that IoT is here right now with smart cars, fitness gadgets, in Alexa (Google), the garage door, the refrigerator and air conditioning.  All of these can be ‘smart’. 

IoT is defined as an expanding network of consumer devices which are internet-connected, sensor laden and collect, process (cloud), analyse and interact with human, environment and sensate data and  by this hybrid physical and virtual interconnection are called ‘smart’. This is huge scale, huge scope and there are huge stakes. By the year 2020 there will be 50 trillion devices!   Consumers International is of the opinion that IoT will present challenges for consumer protection. it is dominated by large entities (e.g. Google, Apple etc).  Google’s Alexa is informed by Artificial Intelligence and it learns from talking to it. 

Hybrid products and software products may live longer than their owners or the software. One scenario could be that these hybrids will be able to turn your device(s) off if you don’t make your contracted payments. Contracts are often long and mostly not read, but unless ticked to say they have been read, a consumer cannot buy the product. There is non-negotiability and consumers ‘give up’.

Since 2013, 9,230,693,578 data records have been lost or stolen! Security and privacy can be built into devices, but companies don’t want that. Consumer data is now the new ‘oil’ of the century.  Data can be taken, infused with other data and can still be re-identified from whence it came, even if taken anonymously.

Smart cars have been data collecting since their introduction - they are a data collecting machine. There is no appropriate road infrastructure and these cars require specific regulation.  All devices are hackable, deceivable and may be coded to kill a person.

Privacy studies show that smart cars are transitional technology from old type driver operated machinery to completely autonomous driving. Auto piloting is NOT a safety feature; it is there only to assist driver fatigue.  Location data aggregated may have unintended consequences. 

‘Privacy and Security by Design and by default is the best way forward and should be placed in the Australian Consumer Law.

Concluding her presentation. Dr. Mathews said the priorities should be:-

1.     Optimise privacy

2.     Simplify consumer information

3.    Enforcement regulations required

4.    Alliance approach.

Academics, Technologists, lawyers, consumers and policy makers all have a role to play in the development of these protections.

The Bond website has e-publications of interest on the above.

Congress Soapbox - spotlight on consumer research and gaps convened by Gordon Renouf, Deputy Chair, Consumers Federation of Australia

Allan Kirkland ,CHOICE. said their work is focusing on cots, pool fences and trampolines where voluntary standards have failed.  There are not enough incentives to make the manufacturers comply so a general safety standard in needed and should be provisioned in the ACL. Consumers were encouraged to support this.

Denise Boyd , CALCspoke of understanding your audience to get your message across and gave an example of how CALC had researched and tailored a message to young adult males with regard to financial literacy by producing a short humorous video which brought home the message home.

Tess, West Justice,(refugee organisation) detailed the issues involved when a person’s first language was not English.  They sometimes enter blind into contracts for accommodation, goods and services and are often taken advantage of. Such people end up depressed and ask, ‘Why does this keep happening to me?’ They are fearful of the legal system and embarrassed that they do not understand. 

 Brett Lovett, Standards Australia spoke on the importance of standards in all facets of life. Brett gave as examples the Australian Standard for Olive Oil, which for Australian producer COBRAN, resulted in numerous awards for their product around the world and AS/NZS 6400, on Water efficient rating labelling of products (a similar standard to that of energy efficiency for white goods involving a star rating system also using stars, is likely to be taken up overseas. 

Elaine Attwood AM (Revised and edited by John Furbank)







AuthorRay Dennis

As a member of SA Water’s Residential Customer Advisory Group, Consumers SA has been asked to pass on this important message from the corporation:

What matters to you?

Water Talks is your opportunity to have your say about the future of water services in South Australia. As part of Water Talks, we are running a survey about what matters to you.

The online survey is open from Tuesday 3 April until Friday 1 June and takes about 20 minutes to complete. All customers are invited to have their say.

Key points

  • SA Water provides water and sewage services for around 1.6 million people.
  • Every four years SA Water provides the Essential Services Commission with a plan outlining how it will deliver water services for its customers.
  • SA Water, together with customers, is planning how to best deliver those services into the future.
  • Between Tuesday 3 April and Friday 1 June, have your say online about what matters to you.
  • The online survey will ask you about what service you want SA Water to prioritise to best meet your needs.
  • Your feedback will be used by SA Water to develop its plan for 2020-24.
  • This plan will outline how it plans to operate, invest and deliver customer services.The plan will then be considered by the Essential Services Commission of South Australia, the economic regulator of the South Australian water industry.
  • Tell SA Water what you really think. What it does well, what needs improvement, and what you value most.
  • Everyone in South Australia can take part and have their say.
  • So, help shape the future direction of your water services.

To support the online survey, we will be out and about across the state in April and May to talk to customers and help people take part. You will find us at:

o   Elizabeth Civic Centre, Tuesday 10 April, 9am – 3pm

o   Port Lincoln Library, Thursday 19 April, 9.30am – 3.30pm

o   Clare SA Autumn Garden Festival, Clare Showgrounds, Sunday 29 April, 9am – 4pm

o   Victor Harbor Library, Wednesday 2 May, 9.30am – 3.30pm

o   SACOSS Disability and Essential Services Conference, Monday 14 May

o   Mount Gambier Library, Thursday 24 May, 9.30am – 3.30pm

o   Berri Library, Thursday 31 May, 9.30am – 3.30pm

AuthorRay Dennis


Consumers SA recently received the following call for volunteers from CHOICE and invites any interested consumers to take part in their campaign:

"Specials offering discounts of $0, price tags that don’t add up, or bulk buying options that don’t save you money. Sound familiar?

Unit pricing - the useful price tag tool that saves you money - should help you avoid the rip-off at the supermarket. But it isn’t perfect. 

With the government due to review unit pricing soon, we’re looking for volunteers to help us find examples of supermarkets using unit pricing incorrectly or not at all. That’s where you come in.

Can you help us crowdsource examples of bad unit pricing?


Here’s what you need to do: 

  1. Sign up here, so we know you’re in.

  2. Keep an eye out in the shops for common unit pricing issues like too-small text, and pricing that's not displayed, incorrect or obscured. 

  3. Get your phone or camera out, snap a pic and send it through to us.

  4. After you sign upwe’ll send all the details you need to stay up to date as the campaign unfolds.

Your photos of unit pricing problems will be crucial for putting pressure on the government to improve the system — once we’ve got enough photos, we’ll compile all the problems in a report to take to decision-makers. 

So if you use unit pricing and want to see it bigger, clearer and in more stores, join our calls to make it work better for you.

Thanks for everything you do,

Katinka Day 
Campaigns & Policy Team Lead, CHOICE"

Unit pricing champion.jpeg
AuthorRay Dennis

Latest in an occasional series of reports on food matters of interest to consumers, compiled by Consumers SA Executive member Elaine Attwood.  This issue of Food Bites contains some interesting information on the use of nanotechnology

New sustainable fish scheme launch in Australia based on Coles’ sourcing framework.

A new framework based on retailer Coles’ Responsibly Sourced seafood project has been launched by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) of Australia to help food firms secure sustainable produce. informs the seafood industry about the stock and environmental and management risks involved with specific species of wild-caught Australian seafood.

At a click, food firms can find a list of target species, state of jurisdiction, fishery, method of fishing, the environmental impact, and so on. The Outlook section in Risk Scores indicate for each particular species if the situation is improving, worsening, stable or uncertain. Risk assessment reports are available from the website. The entire list can also be downloaded in Excel format for future reference. There are currently close to 30 species on the list, and the number will grow throughout the year. Some of them include Australian Sardine, Balmain Bug, Black tip Shark, Saddletail Snapper,  Brown Tiger Prawn and Western King Prawn.

Source: https;//…_63campagn=16-Mar-2018&c=3m8edsarlGRcAwczS6nfWmRxWrlPC9aB&p2=

Author: Lester Wan 15th Mar-2018 -William Reed Business Media Ltd.

Nanomaterials for beer protection

UV radiation comes from the sun and with prolonged exposure to this,  “skunked” or “light struck” beer is formed. Such beer takes on an unpleasant tasting odour which is similar to that given out by skunks. (and other obnoxious tastes and odours). It has been suggested to prevent this problem beer should be stored in the dark, however it is exactly under such dark conditions that bacteria and fungi thrive. Most antimicrobial materials require light activation to perform. The presence of spoilage bacteria and fungi damage barley, and during brewing develop biofilms that cause oxidation and damage the quality/taste of beer.

Nanomaterials designed to have enhanced UV shielding to ensure better beer longevity preserved taste while simultaneously minimising packaging and storing costs, are now on the market. One company supplying the market is called ‘NANOARC’ in Estonia, and its publicity states that ‘With NANOARC quantum materials additives, you upgrade your product’s quality, despite the challenges of tropical climate or summer heat’.

Source and credit: NANOARC Quantum Material Division.  Email:

Gold coated nano wires return sight to the vision impaired

Diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa or macular degeneration are responsible for around 50% of all cases of blindness in Australia. They lead to a constant degrading of vision, with every day getting slightly worse, the edges darkening and closing in until its like looking down a narrow pipe. However a team of Chinese researchers have sparked hope of a treatment for degenerative eye diseases, developing nanowires which can be implanted into the eye and restore sight.

The team of researchers, led by Jiayi Zhang from Fudan University in Shanghai, coated titanium dioxide nanowires with gold nanoparticles. These gold particles just 10 nm in size and tightly bound to the titanium wire, create a photovoltaic effect similar to that of solar cells on the roof of your house. When exposed to light, the gold/nano wire complex generates a voltage which can then be transmitted to the neighbouring neurons. These voltages can help restore vision signalling.

Source and credit: Australia’s Science Channel  March 8th 2018:

UK government’s energy drinks Inquiry to assess effect on the young.

The UK government’s Science and Technology Committee is to launch an Inquiry into the consumption of energy drinks in youngsters to assess its health effects and retail’s role in the drink’s availability. “We know that young people in the UK are the biggest consumers of energy drinks in Europe for their age. We need to understand how the caffeine and sugar in energy drinks might cause negative health outcomes’, the committee stated.  Meanwhile, some retailers have chosen to ban their sale, and some have not,” said Norman Lamb MP, chair of the Science and Technology committee.

Along with retail action, regulatory opinion is also shifting after a report by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) found that 68% of those aged 10 to 18, and 18% of those aged 3 to 10 were consumers of energy drinks. A  Durham University study has highlighted that for children, EFSA’s guideline limit is exceeded by a single can of some energy drinks.

The committee is also interested in submissions that detail how marketing affects consumption, including for example links to “gaming”. It is not just the caffeine but the health effects also extend to the drinks’ sugar content. The world health organisation highlights that an average can of energy drink contains around 10 teaspoons of sugar – almost the daily maximum limit recommended for children.


Author:  Will Chu 09-Mar-2018 - William Reed Business Media Ltd.

Note:  It would be interesting to know the situation in Australia with regard to children consuming energy drinks. When introduced they were said not to be aimed at children.

GM food: Australian and New Zealand food regulator (FSANZ) seeks views on new generation of gene technology.

The organisation has released a consultation paper, with CEO Mark Booth, encouraging views to be submitted on new breeding techniques and how laws should apply to food derived from them.

So far all genetically modified (GM) approved food in Australia and New Zealand have used trans- genesis – where plants have been modified by inserting new DNA. However FSANZ states that new breeding technologies (NBTs) encompass a diverse new set of procedures that are being developed across plant and animal breeding.

“A degree of uncertainty exists about whether foods produced using NBT’s are “food produced using gene technology” because some of the new techniques can be used to make defined changes to the genome of an organism without permanently introducing any new DNA,’ stated FSANZ.  “There has been ongoing scientific and public debate about the nature of the risks associated with food produced using NBT’s and whether premarket assessment and approval is appropriate for those foods,” it added. “The issue being considered for this review is whether (and the extent to which) the food products of NBT’s require pre-assessment for safety, before they can be sold as, or used as ingredients in food.”

This latest development comes amid heightened interest in the regulatory status of the new generation of gene technology. Recently reported was that Australia’s gene regulator proposed reducing regulations around some gene editing techniques, which would result in some of them not being classed as “genetic modification”.

Source: https://www.foodnavigator-asia-com/Article/2018/02/20/GM-foo...ampaign=21-Feb-2018&c=3m8edsarlGS%BipgKUtlgcCpQ4vEmOXEN&p2=

Author:  Gary Scattergood 20-Feb-2018 - William Reed Business Media Ltd.

A treat for the eyes: Children are more responsive to unhealthy food cues.

As part of a research group on advertising and media effects, the researchers from the University of Vienna used eye tracking devices to determine the level of attention children gave to both healthy and unhealthy food cues embedded in a cartoon film. As well as testing the different types of foods, the scientists also varied the “level” of the food cue, comparing one in which there was no interaction with the food cue, to eating and handling the food. They then evaluated how susceptible the 56 boys and girls aged between six and 12 were to the various cues by measuring the impact they had on their hunger levels.

“Our results indicated that unhealthy food cues attract children’s visual attention to a larger extent than healthy cues. However, their initial visual interest did not differ between unhealthy and healthy food cues’, they wrote. “We conclude that especially unhealthy food cues with an interactive connection, trigger acute reactivity in children.” The researchers said they had “concerns” about how food cues were presented in children’s media, and hoped their study would spark further research.

It is estimated that for every one pound spent by the World Health Organisation promoting healthy food, five hundred pounds is spent in advertising by the food industry promoting foods high in salt, fat and sugar. “Our key message to the food industry and especially to food marketers is to cut back the marketing of unhealthy food to children by increasing the marketing of healthy food,” Dr Brigitte Naderer, co-author of the study told FoodNavigator.  ‘Several studies have shown the negative effects of unhealthy food marketing on children’s eating behaviour with long-term consequences such as the global increase in childhood obesity’, she said.


Author:  Niamh Michael 21-Feb-2018- William Reed Business Media Ltd.

Researchers create edible graphine tag, which can be etched onto bread.

Researchers at Rice University have created a way to etch a graphene “label” on to food like bread, coconuts and potatoes, which could embed RFID (radio-frequency) technology to track data on products. The findings draw on similar work the team did developing material called laser induced graphene (LIG), using a laser to heat the surface of the material to create a flaky, foamy form of graphene (a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice)‘This is not ink. This is taking the material itself and converting it into graphene’, said Professer James Tour, chemistry Department, Rice University, Houston Texas. ‘Perhaps all food will have a tiny RFID tag that gives you information about where it’s been, how long it’s been stored, its country and city of origin and the path it took to get to your table. All that could be placed not on a separate tag on the food, but on the food itself.”

Tour Claims because then graphene etchings are conductive the LIG tags could be used as sensors that detect E. coli or other microorganisms on food. LIG also protects surfaces from bio fouling, the buildup of microorganisms, plants or other biological material on wet surfaces.


Author:  Jenny Eagle 05-Mar-2018 - William Reed Business Media Ltd.

NOTE:  For the full details of the above, please check the references.

AuthorRay Dennis


In a recent press release, SA Water reports that it is "achieving positive outcomes for its customers, with some room to improve, according to an independent annual report [released on 8 March 2018] on Australia’s water utilities."

The press release continues: 

"The Bureau of Meteorology’s National Performance Report (NPR) 2016-17: urban water utilities analyses the performance of 85 organisations across the country, including SA Water, which has a customer base of more than 1.6 million people.

The report shows SA Water performed favourably amongst its peers - the larger utilities with 100,000 or more customers - in areas such as customer service, pricing and rate of water main breaks and leaks: [see the chart below]

SA Water’s Chief Executive Roch Cheroux said the report reinforces the organisation’s focus on improving customer experience.

"We achieved some great results last year, in areas we know are important to our customers, with a material reduction in typical water bills, and less inconvenience from water main breaks," Roch said.

"Our team understands there’s still more to be done."

The report also highlights areas for continuous improvement such as unplanned interruptions, sewer breaks and chokes, and system leakage.

"To limit the most common cause of sewer main faults – tree root intrusion – we’re working more collaboratively with councils on tree selection and placement to reduce pipe impact," Roch said.

"We’re also investigating the use of alternative sewer main construction materials which are less prone to tree root damage."

The increased duration of water service interruptions is the result of changed safety procedures for work on cast iron mains, previously used extensively in South Australia, requiring the water supply to be shut down and area excavated before the pipe is repaired.

"Our crews will always work as quickly as possible to complete repairs and get water back on, however the safety of our crews on-site and community members nearby comes first and is not negotiable," Roch said.

The report also shows only around a third of major-sized water utilities reported an increase in the volume of water supplied to residential customers. At 17 per cent, SA Water recorded the largest decrease.

"Much of South Australia experienced above average spring and summer rainfall in 2016-17, which led to a reduction in demand for both mains and recycled water," Roch said.

"On the plus side, this also provided ample supply for our metropolitan reservoirs, reducing the need to draw from the River Murray. Last year, nearly 60 per cent of drinking water supplied to our customers state-wide came from surface water (reservoirs), compared to around eight per cent in 2015-16.

"We protect affordability by using lower costs sources of water first and regularly review available resources to ensure we have an understanding of how much water levels in the reservoirs are increasing from natural inflows.

"How we supply safe, clean drinking water and remove, treat and recycle wastewater is largely dictated by the weather. To ensure we can continue to support our customers with these services, we have measures in place like the Adelaide Desalination Plant which is climate-independent and there as our drought insurance policy."

SA Water data submitted for the report is coordinated and checked by the Essential Services Commission of South Australia."

For a full copy of the report, visit

SA Water performane chart.jpeg
AuthorRay Dennis

CHOICE's Campaigns & Policy Team Leader, Katinka Day, reports that, following the recent CHOICE campaign, "Nestle has agreed to remove their dishonest 4.5 star rating from Milo!"

"Milo’s 4.5 star rating was based on 3 teaspoons of the product being mixed with skim milk. Without skim milk, Milo only gets a 1.5 star rating. Thanks to community pressure, Milo will no longer be health-washing its product with a high star rating.

This is a step forward to making health star ratings work for you. But it can be even better. The government is currently reviewing the system and you can help improve health stars by joining our calls to end food companies' tricks.

Sign our petition for a better health stars system 

Health stars are that little bit of extra information on your side, which you can use when comparing products to make a healthier choice. 

But the guidelines need tightening to make sure unhealthy products can't make themselves appear better than they really are.

Your voice is important to ensure that we achieve a health star rating system that works for you, not food companies."

AuthorRay Dennis


Latest in an occasional series of reports on food matters of interest to consumers, compiled by Consumers SA Executive member Elaine Attwood. Today there are two articles on ‘BLOCKCHAIN’ a term that most consumers would not be familiar with, so Elaine provides this explanation to appreciate its value:

‘Blockchain is a decentralised, distributed and public digital ledger that is used to record transactions across many computers so that the record cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks and the collusion of the (whole) network.’

Basically it relies on the first person or company in the chain to pass on their digital data to the next, who add theirs and passes that on to the next in the chain and so on.   By this method it is possible to be able to trace back to the original source or a link in the chain very efficiently.

Blockchain may also be used in the production and tracing  back of a variety of consumer products.

Blockchain can bring supply chain transparency and transform food firms

‘Blockchain can be the ‘key mediator’ to make supply chains more transparent by enabling food firms to share data based on trust, and to transform their operations to be much more efficient, but it will require a fundamental shift in organisational mindsets.’ (Quote from John Keogh from the advisory service Shantalla Inc.)

Mr. Keogh went on to say, ‘Much of what goes on today is termed ‘Regulation Mediated Transparency’(RMT), where information is shared to meet regulatory obligations from a position of mistrust. On the other hand, Technology Mediated Transparency (TMT), which is voluntary and based on mutual trust is a higher form of transparency that organisations and networks should aspire to.’ He feels that Blockchain technology will be the key factor in building this transparency and trust to help solve issues in the supply chain faster.

Apart from the food chain, Mr Keogh pointed to an example of benefits in agriculture. He referred to the ‘connected cow’ where different devices provide crucial data.  The tail sensor alone can identify an animal in distress, which in the UK alone, can help save up to 100,00 calf and 50,000 cow deaths during birthing.  


Author: Lester Wan 18 Dec 2017 - William Reed Business Media Ltd.

Logistics firms join the fight  against fake food in APAC by backing blockchain consortium. 

Getting buy-in from freight forwarders, ports and shipping firms is crucial to maximising the food industry potential for blockchain to fight counterfeit goods, according to one start-up, which has formed a consortium to boost use of the technology.

While there has been a huge amount of attention devoted to the power of blockchain – encrypted digital records that cannot be tampered with, only added to, and updated for everyone in the network at the same time - chief revenue officer of the blockchain start up TBSx3,  Pieter Vandevelde, said greater regulation was needed to ensure its effectiveness.

Under the consortium, Sydney headquartered TBSx3 has brought together logistics and supply chain giants World Australia and DB Schenker to use the groundbreaking technology. Vandervelde said that 80% of the world’s consumer goods are still shipped over the oceans, meaning that the buy-in from the sector was vital to fight counterfeit goods. The alliance last year tested and utilised technology developed by TBSx3 to complete one of the largest blockchain trials to secure cargo across a global supply chain. It tracked the distribution of wines from Coonawarra, South Australia to the Port of Qingdao in north-eastern China.

“Food and beverage is at the very top of the list of industries that should benefit from blockchain, because consumers are incredibly concerned about what they eat. Being able to guarantee the safety and provenance of products is absolutely essential.” 

Food fraud is estimated to cost the global food industry between US$30bn to $40bn annually.


Author: Gary Scattergood 07 Feb-2018 - William Reed Business Media Ltd.

Australian Senate passes new supplement rules to create “world-class measurement regime"

New supplement rules designed to create “a world-class regulatory regime” in Australia was passed by the Senate on February 16. (2018) The rules, included in the Medicines and Medical Devices Review (MMDR), contain amendments to provide a new approval pathway for listing complementary medicines with high therapeutic indications and health claims.

The new health claim sits between the current, low-risk listed classification for complementary medicines, and the higher level classifications for pharmaceuticals. To qualify to make the new higher-level claims, products must be supported by rigorous scientific evidence, and tested by the regulator: the Therapeutic Goods Administration for efficacy.

Carl Gibson, CEO of industry trade body Complementary Medicines Australia, said “Achieving an appropriate regulatory regimen – one that is supportive of innovation that that doesn’t undermine the current high standards for Australian complementary medicines – will assist the complementary medicines industry to bring innovative new products to both the Australian and global markets”. 

After the USA, Australia is the second highest exporter of complementary medicines. The high international demand for Australian products is driving a major expansion of local manufacturing with an anticipated annual growth rate of 3.9%.


Author: Gary Scattergood 16 Feb-2018 - William Reed Business Media Ltd.

On-pack allergen labelling: permissive, not precautionary, approach ‘would better protect consumers’.

Allergen labelling regulations in Australia need a complete overhaul, claims a new report, which argues that the current voluntary use of “may contain traces” statements are not adequately protecting consumers.

New research by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), being published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, examined reports of anaphylaxis in Australasia from consumption of packaged food products with or without precautionary allergen labelling (PAL), where the known allergen triggers were not a listed ingredient. In Australia two types of labelling are used by manufacturers: mandatory labelling of all ingredients; and precautionary labelling, which is used to inform consumers if a product may have traces of a certain substance.

In this study, members of the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy were invited to complete a questionnaire. The questionnaire found that there had been 14 reports of anaphylaxis following ingestion of a packaged food where the suspected food allergen was not a listed ingredient. And of those reactions, 50% were reported from foods which did not have a PAL statement.  The study’s lead author, Dr Giovanni Zurzola, postdoctoral fellow from MCRI and Victoria University, pointed out that PAL labelling is currently voluntary – with some but not all packaged foods labelled with a variety of advisory warnings. The authors suggest that “permissive labelling would highlight safe and suitable foods for allergy affected individuals, and not just for foods which should be avoided, would be a better option.’

Senior author Prof Katie Allen said, “Our study showed that anaphylaxis to undeclared allergens is not rare and did not appear to depend on whether the product was labelled with precautionary advice. Current PAL practices do not assist consumers in selecting foods which are safe for consumption.’  

‘Improvements in the regulation of food labelling are required to give consumers the right information to help them make safe choices’, Prof Allen said.

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Author: Gary Scattergood 25 Jan 2018 - William Reed Business Media Ltd.

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AuthorRay Dennis