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 www.sawater.com.au. 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."
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.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO
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.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is warning consumers to beware of scammers impersonating energy and telecommunications providers and demanding payments.
Scamwatch has received 5000 reports of fake billing scams in the last 12 months, with reported losses of close to $8000.
“The scammers typically impersonate well known companies such as Origin, AGL, Telstra and Optus via email, to fool people into assuming the bills are real,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
“They send bulk emails or letters which include a logo and design features closely copied from the genuine provider. The bill states the account is overdue and if not paid immediately the customer will incur late charges or be disconnected.”
“Alternatively, the bill may claim that the customer has overpaid and is owed a refund or it may simply say the bill is due and ready to pay,” Ms Rickard said.
New South Wales residents reported the highest number of incidents of the fake billing scam, with 1779 households reporting being victims, compared to 1275 in Queensland and 1245 in Victoria, 485 in Western Australia, 462 in South Australia, 132 in the ACT, 117 in Tasmania and 38 in the Northern Territory.
“Older Australians should particularly be wary of emails pretending to be from utility companies, with people over 65 reporting the most fake utility billing scam incidents,” Ms Rickard said.
“I advise consumers to contact their communications or energy provider directly via the company’s official channels to verify that the email or letter is actually from them.”
“Customers should never use the contact details provided on the suspicious email or letter but instead use an independent source to locate contact details such as a past bill or the phone book.”
In one case reported to the ACCC, a customer received a fake Telstra bill in the mail. The bill stated the customer’s account was overdue and immediate payment was needed. The customer dialled the phone number provided and was asked for his date of birth and driver’s licence number to confirm his identity.
“If customers are duped into phoning scammers they will then attempt to steal as much personal information as they can,” Ms Rickard said.
Other tips on how consumers can protect themselves:
- If you receive a bill outside of your normal billing cycle, or don’t expect to receive an overdue notice, call your provider to check whether it is legitimate.
- If you are not a customer of the company simply delete the email.
- Never click on links or open attachments in an email from an unverified sender – they may contain a malicious virus.
- Never send money or give credit card details, online account details or personal information to anyone you don’t know or trust and never by email or over the phone.
- Keep your computer secure – always update your firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and only buy from a verified source.
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.
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: https://www.foodnavigator.com/Article/2018/02/15/Ultra-process…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.
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
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.
Panelists: Denise 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.
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)
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.
- 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
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.
Here’s what you need to do:
Sign up here, so we know you’re in.
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.
Get your phone or camera out, snap a pic and send it through to us.
After you sign up, we’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,
Campaigns & Policy Team Lead, CHOICE"
As a member of SA Water’s Residential Customer’s Advisory Group, Consumers SA passes on the following information for members' interest.
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.
whichfish.com.au 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.
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: email@example.com
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”.
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.
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 http://www.bom.gov.au/water/npr/.
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.
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."
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.
Author: Gary Scattergood 25 Jan 2018 - William Reed Business Media Ltd.
Note: Please check indicated references for the full text of the articles.
In 1999 Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) introduced Standard 1.5.2 to regulate genetically modified food - including labelling requirements.
At the time, and to date, all genetically modified foods (GM) approved in Australia and New Zealand have been manipulated through the process ‘trans-genesis’ whereby plants have been modified by the insertion of new DNA.
However there are now new forms of gene technology being considered in the production of food: the new breeding techniques or (NBTs). These are proposed to be used in both plant and animal products.
The food regulator has said, “A degree of uncertainty exists about whether the food produced using NBTs are “food produced using gene technology”, because some of the new techniques can be used to make definite changes to the genome of an organism without permanently introducing any new DNA.”
“There has been ongoing scientific and public debate about these foods produced through NBTs, including what risks they might pose and whether premarket assessment and approval is appropriate for such foods.”
FSANZ’s CEO, Mark Booth, has released a consultation paper asking for the public’s views on the new breeding techniques and how laws for food derived from them should apply. For example whether they require pre-assessment for safety before they could be used as ingredients in food and/or sold as such.
The issues the public is being asked to consider are:-
- Food products where new pieces of DNA are inserted into the genome and remain in the organism from which food is obtained
- Where gene technology does not alter the genome, for example where DNA is inserted into the initial organism, but is not present in the final one from which food is obtained
- Where changes are made to the existing genome, but there is no new DNA present in the organism from which the food is obtained. In other words it may have been lost or destroyed during processing of the food.
Office of the Gene Technology’s Regulator, Raj Bhula, has also recently signalled a possible reduction of regulations around certain gene editing techniques - as a result of which some would not be classed as “genetic modification”. Considering that the public are still quite distrustful of genetic modification in their food, this has created some concern. Mr. Bhula contends that, where a process is just manipulation within the organism and not introducing anything foreign (DNA), it could be viewed (and presumably regulated) differently.
At the moment the recommendations of the OGTR are open for consultation but before any changes could be made they would need to be approved by Commonwealth, State and Federal governments before becoming law.
On 14 February Consumers SA Executive Committee members, Brian and Elaine Attwood attended a SA Council of Social Services Essential Services Group meeting at which the attached paper was introduced and briefly discussed.
It shows that there may be an eligibiilty gap in the availability of concessions in South Australia.
Further to the news item posted on 24 January, about the US Department of Justice refund process for victims scammed via Western Union, the ACCC has now advised that the deadline for refund claims has been extended to 31 May 2018.
Daters are advised to be careful with their information while looking for love online. Consumer and Business Services (CBS) is warning consumers of potential scams targeting consumers using dating and romance websites.
More than $20 million was lost last year to scammers targeting people looking for love on social media, email or websites. With scammers often creating very realistic profiles online, and sharing information which seems quite legitimate, it is easy to get caught out. Those most likely to be targets are over 45s looking for relationships and who are in a comfortable financial position.
Scammers will aim to gain your trust and friendship, and will then seek an opportunity to ask for assistance to pay for flights, medical bills etc.
Consumer affairs regulators are urging consumers to stay vigilant online, particularly while engaging with international persons. Follow these simple tips to help recognise a scammer:
- Be open to the idea that scammers are prevalent online.
- Be wary of anyone who asks you for money. This can happen within days, weeks or months of meeting someone online. Never transfer money via direct deposit, money order or international transfer.
- Do a reverse image search of the person’s profile picture. You can do this via Google images by clicking on the camera icon on the desktop version of the site’s search bar. This can help you identify if the image has been taken from someone else, or belongs to a few people with different names.
- Be careful about the amount of personal information you share and avoid sharing compromising material, which scammers can use to blackmail you.
- If you agree to meet someone in person, make sure you let your family and friends know where you will be going.
While the 2017 statistics showed a decrease of financial loss of approximately $5m from 2016 statistics, the number of reports to the ACCC and Scamwatch also went down by almost 12%.
Reporting scams provides valuable information helping regulators to track the latest way scammers are trying to deceive Australians. For more information contact CBS on 131 882 or report online at scamwatch.gov.au.
Latest in an occasional series of reports on food matters of interest to consumers, compiled by Consumers SA Executive member Elaine Attwood.
Foods containing GM golden rice can be sold in Australia and New Zealand.
Products containing traces of golden rice, which is genetically modified to produce beta-carotene, should be able to be sold in Australia and New Zealand, regulators have ruled. It follows an application to Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) from the humanitarian organisation, International Rice Research Institute, which cultivated the GR2E Rice line to mitigate vitamin A deficiency in developing countries. The regulators stressed the application was based on trade issues and did not permit the rice to be grown in Australia or New Zealand.
“FSANZ has determined that golden rice would contain novel DNA and novel protein, as well as an altered nutritional profile (contains beta-carotene), and would be required to carry the mandatory statement “genetically modified” on the packet label,” it stated.
“This requirement would apply to rice sold as a single ingredient food (e.g. a package of rice) and when the rice is used as an ingredient in another food (e.g. rice flour, rice milk).
Author: Gary Scattergood, 3rd January, 2018 - William Reed Business Media Ltd.
Anti-GM group calls for golden rice review in Australia and New Zealand
Campaign group GE free NZ wants regulator Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to review its draft approval for golden rice, which is genetically modified to produce beta-carotene.
Claire Bleakley, president of GE Free NZ, questioned the efficacy of the product and urged the Minister for Food Safety Damien O'Connor to ask FSANZ to review its draft. She said, “A person would have to eat 4 kg of cooked rice, “assuming it was fully absorbed and eaten immediately after harvest with minimal cooking’, to get the same level of vitamin A that one medium carrot or 1 teaspoon of parsley would provide.”
The International Rice Research Institute, wants the GR2E rice for developing countries including Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines which are at high risk of vitamin A deficiency (VAD) and where 30 to 70% of energy intake is derived from rice. While acknowledging that GR2E rice will not solve the issue of population-based VAD for these countries, it believes it can be a major part of an overarching strategy to reduce deficiency.
Author: Gary Scattergood, 29January, 2018 - William Reed Business Media Ltd
Diet high in salt causes cognitive decline – but it can be reversed.
Excessive salt consumption creates a gut-brain axis that leads to deficits in cognitive function, a new study on mice suggests. While a considerable number of studies have linked high salt intake to blood pressure and heart disease risks, researchers said less attention had been paid to potential cognitive effects.
Writing in the journal Nature Neuroscience, researchers stated, ‘We investigated the mechanisms of the harmful effects of dietary salt on the brain. It has long been known that a high salt diet leads to alterations in endothelial function of cerebral and systemic vessels resulting from reduction in endothelial nitric oxide (NO). However most studies focused on salt induced hypertension, and it has remained unclear how long-term dietary salt intake altered cerebral vascular regulation and brain function independently of blood pressure.”
Within a few weeks, the high salt diet led to endothelial dysfunction, a reduction in cerebral blood flow and cognitive impairments in several behavioural tests, but no changes in blood pressure. These experiments were carried out on mice, but the researchers also showed similar effects for human cerebral endothelial cells, suggesting that a high salt diet might also negatively impact brain health in humans, regardless of its effect on blood pressure.
However, the effects of the high salt diet were found to be reversible after the mice were returned to normal diet, or by pharmacological intervention, suggesting that a change in lifestyle or new prescription drugs could help reverse or prevent these effects.
The researchers concluded, “While these findings highlight the key role of cerebral endothelial function in brain health, they also unveil a previously undescribed gut-brain axis whereby dietary habits compromise the brain microvasculature, leading to altered brain function and cognitive impairment.”
Source: Nature Neuroscience: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41593-017-0059-z
Authors: Guiseppe Franco, et al, 2018 - William Reed Business Media Ltd
Makin’ bacon healthy: nitrite free version launches in the UK for 2018.
Nitrite free bacon that uses Mediterranean fruit and spice extracts to replace the cancer-causing chemicals used in the manufacture of traditional bacons, will be available in supermarkets later this month. (This is in the United Kingdom)
Northern Irish artisan and food manufacturer Finnebrogue claims the product, Naked bacon, will be the UK’s only bacon to be free from nitrites, preservatives, E numbers and allergens. The product is a response to comments made by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which stated that nitrites found in various processed meats were as dangerous as asbestos and smoking.
It led the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to announce back in 2015 that consumption of processed meat was “carcinogenic to humans.”
Whilst the flavour is already used in continental style hams in the European Union, this will be the first time the technology has been applied to British bacon and available to UK customers, following a £14 million initial investment from Finnebrogue.
Author: Willi Chu, 3rd January, 2018 - William Reed Business media Ltd.
‘Paddock to Plate’: Beef blockchain technology to fight food fraud
A research project designed to track beef from paddock to the plate and to protect Australia’s reputation for quality production has been launched in Queensland. The BeefLedger is an industry led project bringing together design, business, technology, and food research, and is supported by the Queensland University of Technology-based $200m Food Agility CRC.
The project also features a BeefLedger token (BLT) - a new digital crypto-currency for people to contribute to and participate in the project. ‘The BeefLledger, is being developed as part of the design and implementation of the world’s first application of distributed ledger or block chain technology to the entire beef supply chain,” said Marcus Foth, Professor of Urban Informatics at the QUT Design Lab. “It has the potential to revolutionise the industry by limiting price fluctuations supporting food provenance and preventing food fraud, which is a growing problem in international export markets. So whether you are a farmer, a supermarket, a butcher, a restauranteur, a consumer or another interested party, you will be able to access the entire history of the meat electronically by scanning a barcode for QR Code."
Author: Gary Scattergood, 13th December, 2017 - William Reed Business Media Ltd
Note: Full content of the articles may be found by clicking on the links above.