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

THE PRIME MINISTER’S REPLY TO THE HEALTH COALITION PUSH FOR A SUGAR TAX

Following the recent report from ‘In Daily’ that the Health Coalition were renewing their call for a sugar tax (20/9/17) in Australia, the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, joined the Food and Beverage Industry in rejecting the idea.

Mr. Turnbull said, ‘Australian consumers already pay enough taxes at the supermarket and should not be forced to pay an extra 20% for sweetened drinks.'   He further suggested that it (the tax) should not be seen as the solution to Australia’s obesity crisis.

It is estimated that 63% of Australian adults are either overweight or obese. This translates to an estimated annual cost to the health budget of about A$8.6bn.

However, the Prime Minister said the strategy for turning around the situation should centre oneducations, awareness and action. He also said that ‘Labelling is very important, health messages through the media… but also exercise. Get up and walk.’

A statement issued by Australia’s Food and Beverages industry also opposed a sugar tax and stated that a broader approach is needed. 

‘We believe there is no single cause or quick fix solution,’  a joint statement released by eight major food and drinks groups led by the Australian Food Grocery Council said.

Source: Free newsletter - Breaking News on Food and Beverage Development and Technology - Asia Pacific 22/9/17: Author:  RJ Whitehead : William Reed Business Media .

AUSTRALIAN START-UP WINS FUNDING TO MAKE COFFEE CUPS FROM COFFEE HUSKS

Australian start-up company Huskee has raised more than $114 million via a kickstarter campaign to produce coffee cups and lids made from coffee husks, the layer of cells that coat a coffee bean. The idea for the Huskee cup came from the problems surrounding waste disposal from coffee processing and it is expected to be available from February 2018. At the end of a harvest, coffee farmers manage hundreds of tonnes of husk waste where it has previously been used as a fertiliser supplement and carbonised fuel source.

Saxon Wright, co-founder, HuskeeCup, says as demand for the product increases, he expects the network of farms will have to increase regionally and then internationally. At present the husks are sourced from coffee farms in China in Yunnan province, a special coffee region where members of his team have been working in partnership with local farmers for the last decade.

Wright said, ‘We wanted to create a closed loop system, so we thought if we could use waste from farming to create a cup we could solve problems both at the café and farm level”. Annually 1.35 million tonnes of husk waste is generated globally while the average coffee drinker contributes about 3 kg of husk waste each year.

The design was not without its challenges such as the thermal qualities of the cup during production because it has no handle. The team is already working on a more eco-friendly version of the cup. “We have been researching all kinds of polymers – we want to use CO2 capturing microbes to produce our base biopolymer to blend with our husk” said Wright.

Source: Free Newsletter, breaking news on beverage technology and markets, 25/8/17: Author: Jenny Eagle: William Reed Business Media SAS

SCIENTISTS DEVELOP COOKING OIL TO COMBAT MERCURY POLLUTION

Waste cooking oil from café’s and fast food outlets is being used to capture mercury pollution from Australian mining sites and industrial plants. The technology, developed at Flinders University, is being trialled at mine sites as plans for commercial production take shape.

Mercury leaching into the environment through mining and burning fossil fuel can be a biological disaster, and will soon be regulated by United Nations Convention to prevent harm to humans. Flinders team of scientists, led by Justin Chalker, developed a polymer called sulphur – limonene poly sulphide (S LP) from orange oil in 2015 to tackle the issue. However, the relatively high cost of SLP, its limited application and lack of durability to handle a serious field trial meant the team needed alternatives.

The new polymer has only two ingredients, a second-hand canola oil and sulphur – a common, low-cost byproduct from petroleum production. It can be used in remediation of soil, water and air. After absorbing mercury pollution the rubber like polymer changes colour from brown to black to indicate the job is done. The mercury remains permanently bound in the polymer and can be safely stored without further environmental risk.

“In any industry where mercury is omitted or used intentionally they will most likely be obligated legally to have a clear plan for controlling those admissions and in cases where there is no technology that can be feasibly used at a reasonable price, they will be forced to find other alternatives and we are hoping we can fill that gap,’ Dr Chalker said.

Source: Free Newsletter - Breaking News on Food & Beverage Industry and Technology - Asia Pacific 19/9/17: Author: R.J. Whitehead: William Reed Business Media SAS

‘THE NEXT BIG DISRUPTOR’: PERSONALISED NUTRITION KEY TO AUSSIE SUCCESS AMID INTENSE GLOBAL COMPETITION.

Creating products based on personalised nutrition and sustainable functional foods from waste products, along with improving shelf life by using new technology, offer the biggest growth opportunities for Australian nutrition and food firms in an increasingly competitive global market. That’s the view of James Deverell, director of CSIRO Futures – the national science agency’s strategy and advise division. He recently revealed the organisation had identified these core areas in light of five global trends it saw as shaping nutrition and food industry.

Speaking at the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology (AIFST) convention in Sydney, he elaborated on the five trends: growing sources of international competition, consumers are becoming increasingly sophisticated as global incomes rise, the increase in non-communicable diseases and ageing populations, threats to natural resources, and the need for greater supply chain efficiency.

 Deverell then suggested that devising products for particular population groups based on age, weight, sleep patterns or fitness objectives could reap big rewards, while the falling cost of genetic testing could lead to individual solutions for digestive health. “We also know we have many people who are elderly and have a problem with swallowing. They need to increase protein and zinc intake, and we could actually do this through 3D – printed food”, he added.

The second opportunity is creating new functional foods from waste products.

Source: Free newsletter - Breaking News on Supplements, Health and Nutrition - Asia Pacific 22/9/17: Author: Gary Scattergood: William Reed Business Media SAS

Note: For full stories please refer to the William Reed Business Media SAS website.

 

 

 

 

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

Subject to our earlier opinion piece on a sugar tax, the following article, headed: “Health Coalition renews push for sugar tax" appeared in ‘In Daily’ on 20 September 2017. CSA continues to keep a watching brief.  

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

Elaine Attwood, ConsumerSA’s representative on SA Water’s Residential Customers Advisory Group, advises that the Group’s latest meeting was told that it is now possible to register with SA Water to receive electronic accounts.

By signing up to mySAWater a customer will be automatically registered for e-bils and be able to:

  • view their water use and comparison data
  • request a payment extension and manage direct debits
  •  update their personal details
  •  access their information on their favourite device 24 hours a day.

To get started, take a copy of your last SA Water bill and head to: mySAWater. 

 

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

SA Water's Residential Customer Advisory Group has been newly constituted and Consumers SA has a representative on that group.  At the initial meeting held in August, committee members were asked to ascertain from their members comments on the following key questions - as part of SA Water’s commitment to consulting consumers as it puts together its next 5 year regulatory business proposal. 

There will be a number of different types of engagement with various sectors over the next few years but this is the first opportunity to take part in decisions that will affect every consumer in the near future.

Questions:

  1. Acknowledging that affordability is a key concern, what else is important to your members when it comes to the services SA Water provides?  What are the top two things?
  2. What does SA Water do well?
  3. What services would you like to see SA Water improve?
  4. Do you have any other suggestions on how these services can be improved?

Please email your answers and any other comments to: jodi.slater@sawater.com.au

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

The Consumers Federation of Australia (CFA) has advised Consumers SA of recent developments in combating slavery in the production and supply of goods and services.  The CFA reports:

Millions of people around the world today are subjected to modern slavery practices, such as servitude and forced labour. Australian businesses and consumers are benefiting from modern slavery in supply chains, including through access to cheaper labour and services. These are grave violations of human rights and serious crimes with devastating impacts which have no place in our community or in the supply chains of our goods and services. 

CFA's representative Gail Broadbent, is on the Standards Australia Technical Committee MB-024 Sustainable Procurement which contributed to the development of the first international standard on sustainable procurement. This entails making purchasing decisions that meet an organization’s needs in a way that benefits them, society and the environment. It involves ensuring that a company’s suppliers behave ethically, that the products and services purchased are sustainable and that such purchasing decisions help to address social, economic and environmental issues. Read more here

The Australian Government has a strong record of working with the community to combat modern slavery, including through the multi-stakeholder National Roundtable on Human Trafficking and Slavery.  The consultation paper outlines the Australian Government’s proposal to create a Modern Slavery in Supply Chains Reporting Requirement. This will require large corporations and other entities operating in Australia to publish annual statements outlining their actions to address this insidious crime.

Submissions are open until 20 October 2017, and can be made here

 

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

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

Palm oil free certification scheme launched.

A new certification program, the International Palm Oil Free Certification Accreditation Program (POFCAP), has been developed to enable food makers to demonstrate that their products were manufactured without the use of palm oil. The POFCAP trademark has been approved by regulators in Australia and the UK. A further 14 countries have applications pending for the certification scheme, which was established in response to growing consumer demand for transparency over the use of palm oil in products.

POFCAP is the first scheme that can certify that a product does not contain palm oil. Until now there has been no government-approved body able to certify if a product contains palm oil or not. The scheme differs from any existing scheme as the company is not involved in certifying anything to do with palm oil supply; they are only focused on certifying a product to be palm oil free. POFCAP aims to allow manufacturers who produce products without using palm oil to communicate this to consumers in a clear and trusted way.

(Source: Free Newsletter - Breaking News on Food and Beverage Development - Europe 19/8/17. Author:  Kay Askew)

 

CSIRO’s high tech sound and light show for furry farm pests.

Australian scientists have developed humane technology that could save farmers’ crops and livelihoods from pests. According to CSIRO, pest animals cost the economy up to A$1 billion a year. After their counterparts in Africa successfully managed to scare away elephants from farms and crops, CSIRO researchers are now trialling the so-called Vertebrate Pest Detect and Deter (VPDaD) technology in Australia against animals such as ducks, cockatoos, rabbits, wild dogs and more, starting in Queensland’s Lockyer Valley.  The technology consists of two systems: a motion sensor device, and a collection of cameras that can pick up images and heat signatures of animals, with lights and sounds which function as a deterrent for pests. CSIRO technology specifically developed for the camera program allows the computer to recognise and classify animals based on the images captured.

CSIRO’s Dr. Trews said, “One of the interesting issues with existing deterrent technologies is that, not only do animals become desensitised to them, but smarter ones can even learn to use the deterrents as an indication of a food source, which is the opposite of their purpose. Our autonomous technology allows the system to recognise animal behaviours in response to deterrence and modify the deterrence strategy until the desired effect is achieved.”

(Source: Free Newsletter - Breaking News on Food and Beverage Development and Technology - Asia-Pacific 22/8/17.  Author: R.J.Whitehead)

 

Scientists trial charged–water irrigation system to boost food safety.

Technology that allows vegetables to be cleaned with electrically charged water before harvest is being trialled in Australia. The research could also help keep irrigation pipes clean and give growers the ability to irrigate with water previously deemed too poor to be used on vegetables. Electrolysed oxidising water techniques (EO) are already used to sanitise water used on produce post–harvest to kill bacteria and extend shelf life but using them pre-harvest on a large-scale is a new concept. The water is sanitised when it passes electrodes, which convert chloride salts in the water into chlorine.

The three-year project began in June with growers recruited in South Australia and New South Wales for trials. University of South Australia scientist Enzo Lombi said, “The technology was scalable and could be used to sanitise thousands of litres of water an hour - enough to service entire farms. The technology would be most effective at treating leafy crops that are consumed fresh, such as lettuce, spinach and parsley.” The research will mainly look at human pathogens like salmonella and E. coli, but will also look out for any positive effects in eliminating crop diseases.

(Source: Free Newsletter - Breaking News On Food and Beverage Development and Technology – Asia-Pacific.10/8/17. Author: R.J. Whitehead)

 

Science agency launches food “innovation and entrepreneurship” roadmap.

New technologies could see Australians eating algae–based sources of protein, developing allergenic–free nuts and helping the environment with edible packaging, according to the CSIRO.  Launching its “Food and Agribusiness Roadmap”, the Commonwealth Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Craig Laundy said that innovation and entrepreneurship would drive new economic growth in the food industry. Developed with widespread industry consultation and analysis, the roadmap centres on keeping a greater share of food processing business and differentiating Australian food products from their competitors.

Dr Cole, CSIRO’s deputy director, said that “Advances are already being made through the use of block chain technology and the development of labels that change colour with temperature or time, or are programmed to release preservatives. This roadmap will set us on the path to sustainable growth in the sector.” Australia exports over A$40 billion of food and beverages each year, with 63% shipped to Asia. Much of the demand for these goods stems from the country’s reputation as a trusted and sustainable supplier of high–quality and healthy products, Dr Cole said.

(Source: Free Newsletter – Breaking News On Food and Beverage Development and Technology – Asia-Pacific. 20/7/17.  Author: R.J.Whitehead)

 

 ‘Shrinkflation’ must be clear to stop shoppers feeling “cheated”.

Food manufacturers have been urged to make it clear when they shrink products, to stop consumers feeling “cheated”. The recommendation was made by the UK consumer group Which? after analysis by the Office for National Statistics revealed that 2,529 products had reduced in size over the past five years, of which 2006 were food items.

“We have found that many popular household and food products have shrunk over the years, often with the price staying the same or increasing,” said Alex Neill, Which? home products and services MD. “Manufacturers and retailers should make any changes to their products clear, otherwise they risk people feeling cheated.”

Last November, Mondelez International suffered a social media backlash after changing the iconic shape of its Toblerone bar to offset rising costs. Consumers claimed they were “distressed” and “felt cheated” after Mindelez announced plans to increase spaces between ridges, and revealed the weight of 400 gram bars would fall to 360 grams while 170 gram bars would become 150 grams.

(Note: Which? is the consumer group in the UK, but consumers in Australia have also complained about ‘Shrinkflation’ of various food products)

(Source:  Free Newsletter – Inside Food And Drink Manufacturing. 29/7/17 Author: Helen Gilbert.)

NOTE: The complete text of all these articles may be found on the website of William Reed business media.

 

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

  

Consumer and Business Services (CBS) has launched a new campaign to help consumers know their rights and responsibilities when buying a car.

The campaign promotes the protections consumers get when buying from a licensed dealer (warranty, consumer guarantees, cooling off period, guaranteed vehicle ownership etc) and also provides advice for people who buy privately (e.g. checking ppsr.gov.au to make sure no money is owed on the car or it hasn’t been written off due to flood damage).

According to CBS: 

"Car buyers often get excited researching different car models, features and prices, but they can end up in a sad and sorry situation if they don’t get the final purchase right.

CBS and the Motor Trades Association (MTA) have launched a new education campaign to remind consumers of the important protections they get if they buy from a licensed second-hand vehicle dealer.

While buyers may save some dollars by buying privately, this carries bigger risk. In the end, it may cost the consumer a lot more if they miss out on a warranty and consumer guarantees, and if they buy privately without making some important checks.

When buying from a licensed dealer, consumers are protected by:

·            Warranty and consumer guarantees

·            The vehicle must be of acceptable quality when it is sold

·            Accurate information must be given about the vehicle

·            Two-day cooling off period to consider the purchase

·            Clear title and guaranteed vehicle ownership.

The key message for car buyers is to reduce their risk by following some simple advice:

·       Buy from a licensed second-hand vehicle dealer

·       Take the car for a test drive

·       Get a mechanic to inspect the car

·       Check the Personal Property Securities Register for private sales.

Checking the Personal Property Securities Register is crucial to make sure that the vehicle hasn’t been stolen, there is no money owed on it, and it hasn’t been flood damaged or written off. Visit ppsr.com.au to make these important checks.

The campaign is targeting potential car buyers via digital advertising, three short videos and a new brochure which includes a helpful checklist for buyers.

To view the videos or the brochure or for more information about the campaign please visit www.cbs.sa.gov.au/cars"

 

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

 

"Energy Made Easy can help you beat bigger bills", says the Australian Energy Regulator in this 8 August 2017 press release, which continues:

"Energy is a significant cost for many households and small businesses and recent price increases have added to these costs.

It’s not welcome news but there are things you can do to lessen the impact of those price rises. If you haven’t switched energy providers in some time, or if you are still on a standing offer, chances are you are paying more for electricity or gas than you need to. There are lower price energy plans available and the Australian Energy Regulator’s free comparison website Energy Made Easy can assist households and small business customers to find a plan that suits their needs, and potentially save a substantial amount of money.

Energy Made Easy (www.energymadeeasy.gov.au) lets you compare plans from all retailers, and doesn’t require you to enter any personal details – just your usage information from one or more recent bills, or, if you don’t have that available, you can use our usage estimates.

Depending on the area, the difference between the most expensive and cheapest plan can be hundreds of dollars. Doing an energy offer search on Energy Made Easy is a good first step to see what the options are and what the best plan is for you.

While finding a good price is important, there are other things to think about when choosing an energy plan. Fees, terms and conditions, how any discounts are applied, and whether a retailer offers extra services like flexible billing options or apps, can all influence whether a plan is the right one for you.

It can be hard to know what to look out for, so here are some tips for finding a good plan.

  • Switch to something better – There are lots of plans in the market and you can save by switching, especially if you have been on the same plan for a while. You may not even need to switch to a different retailer – your current retailer may be able to offer you something better. Prices often rise, so it’s a good ideas to set yourself a reminder to compare energy plans once a year – it could save you hundreds of dollars
  • Don’t be dazzled by discounts –A bigger discount doesn’t always mean a bigger saving – check the rates the discount applies to. Is it off the whole bill, or just your usage? It’s also important to check what conditions you need to meet to get the discount.
  • Know what lies beneath – Contract terms, payment options and conditions can have a big impact on your bill. Retailer fees can vary widely – check what fees apply to the offer you’re considering. It’s a good idea to avoid plans with late payment fees or pay on time discounts if you have trouble paying your bills on time.
  • Avoid bill shock – Retailers can change your electricity prices even when you have committed to a contract. They don’t have to tell you before the change happens, so before you sign up to a new plan, ask if there are any price changes planned and if so, how you will be notified. If you like certainty, a plan with fixed prices might be a good choice, or even a plan with a set monthly fee.
  • It’s not all about price – Price is not the only thing that can make a plan a good one for you. Plan features like monthly billing, or apps that track your energy usage can help you manage your costs: ask your retailer what they can offer.

 

Visit the Energy Made Easy website www.energymadeeasy.gov.au/tipstoswitch for more tips on how to find a good plan."

 

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

A press release from the Victorian Consumer Action Law Centre released on 2 August 2017 asserts that: 

"The game is up for car yards and insurance companies who’ve been ripping Australians off".

The press release continues:

Following the corporate watchdog ASIC's announcement today that insurer QBE will refund $15.9 million of junk insurance, and a similar announcement in June that Virginia Surety will refund $330,000, plus an impending class action against worthless car yard warranties – Consumer Action says now is the time for Australians to fight back.

“Anyone who has bought a car in recent years should check their paperwork—you could get your money back,” says Susan Quinn, Senior Policy Officer at Consumer Action Law Centre.

“This car yard sham has been exposed. Insurers and warranty companies have been in cahoots with car dealers for too long and finally people are fighting back and winning. Car yards, insurers and warranty companies have let this behaviour go on for a long time and now they’re facing the consequences.”

Consumer Action’s DemandARefund.com has helped people right across Australia demand over $600,000 in refunds from car yards and insurers.

“Check your paperwork for any insurance or warranties you might not know about, or that you felt pushed into buying,” advises Quinn.

“Even if you did choose to buy it, it may be worthless to you. And if so, you should demand your money back. DemandARefund.com can help you do that.

Been ripped off by junk insurance? Here’s how to Demand A Refund:

Bought add-on insurance from QBE?

You can find out if you’re eligible for a partial refund from QBE at the ASIC MoneySmart website. You could get a partial refund plus any interest you paid.  

But, if you want to seek a full refund of the premiums, visit DemandARefund.com

Bought add-on insurance from another insurer?

To seek a full refund for add-on insurance or a used car extended warranty, visit DemandARefund.com

If you are not happy with the insurer’s offer or they do not respond within 45 days, you can lodge a complaint with the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) online.

Consumer Action’s 3 tips for avoiding car yard shonks:

1 – Insurance and warranties sold in car yards are bad news.

Our experience shows that the insurance products and warranties sold at car yards is often poor value. The salesperson is more focused on their commission than getting the right insurance for you. Research your own options.

2 – Car yards are bad places for financial decisions.

It might seem convenient to buy your car and arrange a loan in the same place, but you could be stung with an expensive loan you can’t afford. Compare rates in the market and speak to a lender who cares about giving you the right loan for your circumstances.

3 – Prepare before entering the car yard.

Walk in prepared. Set your budget, know what car features are important for you and be prepared to sleep on it. Cars are a major financial decision – so don’t rush!

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

Click here to download a copy of Consumers SA Executive Committee members Brian and Elaine Attwood’s comprehensive and informative report on the ACCC’s recent meeting in Adelaide designed to explain their retail pricing inquiry and to invite comment from Adelaide electricity consumers.

The meeting focussed on the important issues of:

  • marketing practices, including discounting
  • contracting, including fixed benefit periods
  • awareness and utility of price comparator websites
  • particular issues relevant to vulnerable customers.

 

 

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

The following news item appeared on the ABC News website on 27 Jul 2017:

"More than 180,000 low-income households could save hundreds of dollars on their power bills, if a new energy discount offer being promoted by the South Australian Government goes to plan.

It wants retailers to bid for contracts to supply energy to low-income households that currently receive energy concessions.

The Government said that most low-income customers were on "standing contracts" and that it could get a better deal for them if it negotiated those contracts on the households' behalf.

It hopes to have a deal in place by October.

"If it does offer those additional benefits of bill-smoothing and flexible payment options, people will take up that consideration," Social Inclusion Minister Zoe Bettison said.

Ms Bettison said that key groups likely to benefit included tenants of public and community housing, older people and those with a disability or medical conditions.

Currently, $170 million of concessions are provided to more than 180,000 households for expenses such as energy, water, sewerage and the state's emergency services levy."

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

 

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is warning the community to watch out for investment scammers who promise the world but leave their victims with broken dreams and empty bank accounts.

“In the first half of 2017, Australians have reported losing over $13 million to investment scams to the ACCC’s Scamwatch website, making it the most profitable of all the current scams. It is likely that losses are much higher as many victims do not report scams or contact other authorities,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

Men are almost twice as likely to be targeted by investment scams and lose significantly more money than women. People aged 45 to 64 most commonly fall victim.

“These scams typically start with a phone call out of the blue. The scammers are sophisticated, convincing and persistent, which is why we sadly see people lose large amounts of money to them. They are also delivered through unsolicited emails, online forums and social media,” Ms Rickard said.

“Scammers use high pressure tactics to sell you a financial opportunity that is ‘not to be missed’, involves high and quick returns for low risks, and needs to be acted on quickly or you will miss out.”

“Whatever your motive is for the investments you make, do your research and never invest money with someone who has contacted you out of the blue, no matter who they say they are, how much money they promise you or the urgency with which they’re trying to make you act. They seem too good to be true because they are,” Ms Rickard said.

Common investment scams:

  • Unsolicited phone calls & emails offering investment opportunities with high returns. They can involve multiple calls, with multiple people who speak in investment jargon and provide you with access to professional looking websites and documents. Your initial investment may seem to show promising results quickly but soon your money and the scammer disappear and you have lost everything.
  • Unsolicited calls from scammers offering to roll your superannuation funds into a self-managed fund that will help you reduce your tax and provide great investment opportunities. In reality they are just stealing your superannuation funds.
  • Binary options trading that involve predicting the movements of commodity, asset or index prices over a short time. If you agree they direct you to a website with a login, account details and a trading platform. They appear to put your money into the account and demonstrate a number of successful trades to encourage you to invest greater sums. Then your money begins to disappear and so too does the scammer.

Protect yourself:

  • Hang up or hit delete on all cold calls and emails offering unsolicited advice on investing.
  • Visit the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s MoneySmartwebsite to check companies you shouldn’t deal with and ASIC’s professional registers to see if someone you are dealing with has an Australian Financial Services License.
  • Block the scammer on your social media accounts so they can’t contact your family and friends.
  • Conduct thorough research before making any investment.
  • Never commit to any investment at a seminar – always get independent financial advice.

Further information is available at www.scamwatch.gov.au and www.moneysmart.gov.au.

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

CHOICE wants to hear from any Australian consumers affected by the recent Takata airbag recall:  "the biggest product safety recall in automotive history”, according to CHOICE, involving: "airbags [that] have a flaw which can cause them to rupture, sending shrapnel and sharp bits of metal flying". 

CHOICE is currently investigating the recall, and they want to hear from consumers who have cars that need repairs, or have been fixed.

South Australian consumers should check here to see if their car is on the recall list.

If consumers are happy to tell their story or be interviewed by a journalist, they can send their contact details by email, to: Sarah Agar, CHOICE MANAGER OF CONSUMER POLICY, at: campaigns@choice.com.au

 

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

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

Enhanced vitamin A banana a ‘World first’: Australian academics.

Australian researchers have created the world’s first orange-fleshed banana, which is rich in pro -vitamin A and will help tackle micronutrient deficiency in Uganda. The decade-long research, led by Professor James Dale of the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) involved extensive laboratory tests and field trials in northern Queensland.

Dale said the genetic modification process resulted in the identification and selection of banana genes that could be used to enhance pro-vitamin A in banana fruit.

The research, backed by close to $10 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, ultimately aimed to improve the nutritional content of bananas in Uganda, where the fruit is the major staple food. Ugandan farmers will begin growing the pro-vitamin A rich bananas in 2021.

Prof Dale said another really pleasing aspect of the project was the fact that young Ugandan students, who came to QUT to undertake their studies, had now completed their PhD’s and were overseeing the research and field trials in Uganda.

 (By Gary Scattergood: Free Newsletter Breaking News on Supplements, Health and Nutrition - Asia Pacific.  William Reed Business Media SAS. 13/7/17)

 

Research: Aussie sugar tax “would not punish the poor”

A major criticism of the public health lobby’s proposed sugar sweetened beverage tax- that it would unfairly punish the poor and disadvantaged- may have been debunked by research from Deakin University’s Global Obesity Centre. The study claims to be the first of its kind to examine the equity of a 20% tax on sales of sugar sweetened beverages in Australia, by assessing potential cost effectiveness, health gains and financial impacts for different socio-economic groups.

The modelling predicts that those in Australia’s lowest group would receive the greatest health benefits from the tax, and the extra cost to them due to the increased price of soft drinks would be just A$5 (US3.78).  Annual tax revenue from the proposal was estimated at A$642.9 million (US$465m) in the report.

According to Anna Peeters, who supervised the study, the equity of the tax could be even further improved if this government revenue was used to fund initiatives benefiting those with greater disadvantage.

(BY R.J. Whitehead: Free Newsletter Breaking News on Food ad Beverage Development and Technology - Asia Pacific. William Reed Business Media SAS 29/6/17)

  

Australian restaurant joins researchers to study native foods.

An Australian university and a foundation started by a chef with an interest in native ingredients have joined forces in a project to develop the native food industry for the benefit of remote indigenous communities.

Adelaide University joined with the Orana foundation, which was founded by celebrity chef Jock Zonfrillo. Their plan is to “preserve and involve Australian food culture into a sustainable industry that makes the most of indigenous traditional knowledge and benefits indigenous communities,” according to Andy Lowe, the University’s director of food innovation.

The research is being funded as part of A$1.25 m (US$950.000) grant from the South Australian government to the foundation.

Meanwhile, the Australian Bioactive Compounds Centre will assess the nutritional profile and potential for bioactive compounds from aboriginal food plants, and in particular look at their sugar, protein, vitamin D, antioxidant and fibre content, and glycemic values.

Ingredients with high nutritional profiles and enjoyable flavours will be assessed for their food potential. Orana chefs will work with the Adelaide University’s FoodPlus Research Centre to determine optimal preparation and cooking requirements for native plant species. These will then be assessed for flavour, texture and visual appeal.

(R.J.Whitehead: Free Newsletter Breaking News on Food and Beverage Development and Technology -Asia Pacific. William Reed Business Media SAS 7/7/17)

 

Food packaging chemical linked to chronic disease: SA study.

A common chemical used in food packaging, toys and medical devices is linked to chronic disease in men, according to an Adelaide study. The study of 1500 South Australian men found a link between several chronic diseases and phthalates – a group of chemicals widely used in consumer goods. The results, which have been published in the International Journal of Environmental Research, detected phthalates in the urine samples of 99.6% of men in the study aged 35 years and over.

“We found that the prevalence of cardiovascular disease, type – two diabetes and high blood pressure increased among those men with higher total phthalate levels,” said the study’s senior author Associate Professor, Zumin Shi.

Shi, from the University of Adelaide School of Medicine and the Freemasons Foundation Centre for Men’s Health and a member of SAHMRI’s Nutrition and Metabolism theme, said the study adjusted for subjects who were overweight and obese – and it still pointed to phthalates as a link to disease. In addition to chronic diseases, higher phthalate levels were associated with increased levels of a range of inflammatory biomarkers in the body.

Much of the focus on the safety of plastic packaging in Australia has been on another chemical – BPA or Bisphenol A. Phthalates – a plastic softener – had been detected by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand in some foods triggering more research by the food safety regulator.

 (In Daily - Adelaide’s Independent news 13/7/17)

 

Woolworths and Coles will ban plastic bags from the supermarkets.

Woolworths, Coles and Harris Farm Markets will ban plastic bags from their stores within 12 months, in a step hailed as a major win for the environment. The momentous announcements, made on Friday are expected to have a massive impact on ocean and landfill waste as the stores transition to selling thicker, reusable options for $0.15 each.

Woolworths said it gives out more than 3.2 billion plastic bags each year and Coles is very likely to hand out a comparable figure, making the supermarkets a major contributor to national waste.

State-based bans on single use plastic bags have seen a reduction in waste. South Australia is estimated to use 400 million fewer plastic bags each year since they were banned in 2009. There has been a 36% reduction in bags going to landfill in the ACT. Tasmania and the Northern Territory have also banned plastic bags. More than 70% of the rubbish entering Australia’s oceans is plastic, according to Animals Australia. About 100,000 animals are killed by plastic bags each year. Greenpeace said 30% of the world’s turtles and 90% of the world’s seabird species have ingested plastic debris. Plastic bags take up to a thousand years to decompose.

(http://thenewdaily.com.au/news/national/201707/14/ban-plastic-bags-woolworths-coles/)

As always, the full content of articles may be found through the references. 

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

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

Lupin added to mandatory allergen labelling list.

All food businesses will have to declare lupin whenever it is present as an ingredient or as a component of food additives or processing aids. They will have 12 months from 25 May 2017 to meet the requirements.  If the food is not in a package or is not required to have a label, information must be displayed with the food or provided to the purchaser if requested.

Lupin may be found in products including baked goods (i.e. bread, pastries, pies), pasta or noodles, sauces, beverages and meat based products (e.g. burgers and sausages).

Since 2007 Lupin has been recognised in Europe as an allergen requiring labelling.

(Free Newsletter 22/6/17- staff reporter 20/6/17 -  Breaking News on Food & Beverage Development and Technology - Asia Pacific. William Reed Business Media SAS)

 

Fruit freshness ripe for innovation with use of coated fabric.

A quick and reliable way to test the freshness of fruit is the focus of a study that adapts a coated fabric, which soaks up chemical compounds in the fruit juice to indicate ripeness.

Along with fellow study author Dr. Kenneth Furton, provost and executive vice president at Florida International University, the team think the chemical changes occur in oranges during storage can be applied to new active packaging.

The new environmentally friendly approach replaces solvents by using a muslin cotton composite as the base for their portfolio of new chemical coatings.

The university holds a patent on the invention and is currently working to commercialise the technology for use in a variety of applications. In addition, researchers at more than 30 universities have already independently validated the innovation.

(Source : Journal of Chromatography A - Published online ahead of print:

doi.org/10.1016/jchroma.2017.04.006  Fabric phase sorptive extraction as a reliable tool for rapid screening and detection of freshness markers in oranges.

Authors: Kenneth Furton, Abuzar Kabir et al

Free Newsletter - By Will Chu14/6/17 - Breaking News on Food and Beverage Development Technology- Europe 17/6/17)

 

Proposed ‘benchmark’ acrylamide levels set to impose further food firm limits.

Measures to reduce acrylamide levels in food took a step forward as new draft proposals outline ‘benchmark’ mandatory levels for the industry. The proposals state that Food Business Operators (FBO) of deep fried foods such as French fries, potato crisps and other potato products would have to apply ‘mitigation measures’ in order to reduce levels of the chemical.

Potato based products head up the list that also include bread, breakfast cereals,  and other fine bakery wares such as cookies, biscuits, rusks, cereal bars, scones, cornets and wafers.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) identifies these foods as increasing the risk of cancer to consumers of all ages. In its scientific opinion EFSA said that while human studies investigating acrylamide exposure was ‘limited and inconclusive’, the margin of exposure based on current levels of dietary exposure ‘indicate a concern.’

‘The Benchmark levels of acrylamide presence in foodstuffs shall be reviewed by the Commission every three years’, the proposal stated, ‘and the first time within three years after the entry into application of this Regulation.’

(Free Newsletter -  By Will Chu 13/6/127 - Breaking News on Food and Beverage Development- Europe 17/6/7William Reed Business Media SAS) 

 

Eggs suspected as Salmonella infections increase.

There have been more than 700 salmonella cases up to the end of April according to the Western Australian Health Department. The agency said 713 infections of S. typhimurium had been reported - which was four times the usual number.

‘Eggs are a good source of vitamins and minerals but like many other foods they can be contaminated with bacteria, including Salmonella. It is best to avoid any uncooked foods or dishes that contain raw egg and don’t use cracked or dirty eggs. This is because it is impossible to guarantee the safety of eating raw eggs and dishes that contain unpasteurised raw egg products. This includes breakfast dishes containing eggs, desserts and aoli.

Prepare egg dishes as close as possible to the time of consuming and refrigerate at or below 5 degrees centigrade. It is important to wash and dry your hand thoroughly after handling eggs.’

(Free newsletter -  By Staff Reporter 13/6/17 - Breaking News on Food and Beverage Development and Technology - Asia Pacific 14/6/17.  William Reed Business Media SAS)

 

Abalone found to thrive on wine-waste diet

Waste from the wine industry is being development into aquaculture feed with highly promising results.

The South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) has joined with Tarac Technologies to work on the project. Steam distilled grape marc, registered as Acti-Meal is the heat treated skins, pulp, seeds and stems of grapes left over after wine is made. Once known as a waste product, Tarac Technologies is a world leader in turning grape marc into a range of value-added products ranging from grape spirit to stock feed, grape-seed extract oil and soil improvers.

A six month trial of a test feed produced by Aquafeeds Australia containing 20% Acti-Mealis set to begin at an abalone farm in November after successful lab trials in Adelaide last year.

(Free Newsletter - By R.J. Whitehead 12/6/17 -  Breaking News on Food and Beverage Development and Technology - Asia Pacific 13/6/17. William Reed Business Media SAS)

 

EU expresses ‘high concern’ for hormone disrupting chemical Bisphenol A

Bisphenol A, a chemical found in consumer products such as food packaging, may soon be restricted in the EU after authorities expressed ‘high concern’ over its effect on human health.

According to the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) BisphenolA (BPA), an organic man-made compound, is a substance of ‘very high concern because of its endocrine disrupting properties.’ The compound is linked to a number of conditions including impaired thyroid function, metabolic disease and neurological learning difficulties. Its effect on the reproductive system are also of concern although evidence is weak and tentative.  The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)  remain unconvinced by this latest decision, standing any its decision back in October 2016 that states evidence is too limited to draw any conclusions for human health.

(Free Newsletter - By Will Chu 19/6/17 - Breaking News on Food and Beverage Development - Europe 24/6/17. William Reed Business Media SAS)

 

Elaine's note:  The above are small extracts from more comprehensive papers. Members are encouraged to use the references to read the complete papers for the full story.

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

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

More on sugar

Thailand is expected to introduce a sugar cap by next year according to the national food regulator.

The Food and Drug Administration says a bill to legislate for a maximum of 10% sugar and sweetener content has been submitted to the government.  It is expected to pass through parliament over the coming months.  Those operating with a higher proportion of sugar and sweeteners would be forced to pay higher taxes.

 (Breaking News on Food and Beverage Development and Technology - Asia Pacific - Free newsletter 6 June, 2017)

Back to Basics on Sugars. Fats and Obesity

In an interesting (May 2017) blog from Australia’s Science Channel, the author explores the view that he has been programmed to consume sugar throughout his life and that this exposure provides a breeding ground for neurological addiction. He argues that one of the reasons for this is because fat has been demonised and has resulted in the manufacturing of low- to non-fat products which now proliferate on supermarket shelves.   This has had a significant effect on taste and been compensated for with - sugar.

He says, ‘This ever-rising rate of obesity has not only drastically increased the number of chronic ailments we are contracting; it has also become a leading cause for cardiovascular disease. It has been proposed that sugars lead to inflammation in our cardiovascular system. Thus when there is an excess of sugar intake, our immune system is unable to fight inflammations fast enough.’

New trials show ‘multiple health benefits’ from consuming mango: industry body.

Several emerging human studies on mango consumption are reporting improved blood pressure, blood sugar control and gut health, according to the National Mango Board.

India accounts for almost half the global production of the fruit, followed by China and Thailand.

Three studies have been conducted- one investigated the metabolic effects of daily consumption of freshly frozen mango pulp and the relationship between mango metabolites to Body Mass Index and circulating biomarkers. A second study found that one hour after a meal with mango, plasma glucose was lower and the third study looked at gut micro-biota after mango consumption. While all were positive it was acknowledged that more studies were needed.

(Breaking News on Food and Beverage Development and TechnologyAsia Pacific - Free newsletter 9 June 2017)

Australian Power Plant’s waste puts bubbles in beer.

AGL Energy recently commissioned a plant at its Torrens Island power station in South Australia to recover carbon dioxide.  The plant, operated by Air Liquide will capture and purify up to 50,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions from the power station’s exhaust per year. It is the first facility to capture and sell CO2 from a power station in Australia.

The CO2 will be sold in S.A. for a variety of uses, including carbon dioxide enrichment in greenhouses for tomato growing, carbonated drinks, reducing the pH in water treatment facilities, including the desalination and modified atmosphere packaging for soft drinks and beer.

(Breaking news on Food and Beverage Development and Technology - Asia Pacific - Free Newsletter 9 June 2017)

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

CHOICE has started a campaign against “supermarket rip-offs” with the following warning and call for action on their Campaign website:

"Right now product labels have to show weight on the front of a pack. This forces businesses to be honest about what you're really paying for and how much in the pack is just air. But, the Australian Government wants to give businesses the 'flexibility' to change labels so they could remove weight labelling from the front of pack to wherever they want.

Don't want to spend your supermarket shop turning over every packet to find out how much is inside? You shouldn't have to. The Department of Industry is reviewing labelling requirements. They think that consumers show "little passion" about this labelling issue. We need to prove them wrong. Tell the regulator that you don't want to lose information that helps you know what you're paying for! "

You can send an email to Craig Johnson (who's leading the review of product labels) and cc Craig Laundy MP (the responsible Minister) by clicking on this link.

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

According to a recent article in the Economist magazine:

The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data

"A New commodity spawns a lucrative, fast-growing industry, prompting antitrust regulators to step in to restrain those who control its flow. A century ago, the resource in question was oil. Now similar concerns are being raised by the giants that deal in data, the oil of the digital era. These titans—Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft—look unstoppable. They are the five most valuable listed firms in the world.

Rebooting antitrust for the information age will not be easy. It will entail new risks: more data sharing, for instance, could threaten privacy. But if governments don’t want a data economy dominated by a few giants, they will need to act soon."

Read the full article here

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis

According to a recent report on the CHOICE website: "[t]he ticket scalping scene – politely called the "secondary ticket market" – has seen a huge change in the last few years, as dedicated resale websites have moved into the market. Swiss-based Viagogo launched in Australia in late 2013, followed by Ticketmaster Resale in mid-2014.

Immediately popular, they were touted as safer alternatives to sites like eBay and Gumtree, where buyers had little to no recourse against fraudulent scalpers. "We bring fraud down," Viagogo CEO Eric Baker said at the time.

These sites act as middlemen for ticket on-sellers and their customers, providing the platforms to list tickets, in addition to facilitating the transaction. Sellers can list tickets at any price they want, and the free market takes care of the rest. The website takes a commission.

However, with their growing popularity comes the increased risk of buyers becoming unstuck. Profiteering scalpers have moved their business to the very platforms which were designed to thwart them. Scalpers are also known to let bots loose on primary market websites, buying up tickets faster than any human and on-selling to fans at a huge mark-up. Whether from scalpers or just plain bad sellers, people also report buying tickets that simply don't turn up."

Posted
AuthorRay Dennis