The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission is warning the community to be wary of scammers trying to ruin their Christmas holidays. In a recent message to the National Council of Women SA, the Commission says:
“Scammers often try to take advantage of people during the busy Christmas period and prey on our vulnerabilities at this time of year. For example, they may take advantage of you looking for a good deal on a family holiday, searching for a loved one’s present at an online store, or even that you’re expecting a present from someone through the post.
Watch out for three common holiday season scams:
- Travel scams: scammers trick their victims into believing they’ve won a travel prize or scored a really good deal on a travel package, like a cruise. Unfortunately these seemingly too-good-to-be-true holidays are nothing more than a scammer’s con. In the past 12 months, nearly $86,000 has been lost to this scam, with about 1750 reports.
- Online shopping scams: scammers will set up believable looking online stores to trick people into goods that don’t really exist. They might also set up fake online classified or auction site listings. They entice people with legitimate looking discounts and may even advertise items as the perfect Christmas present for a loved one. This scam has cost Australians more than $1.3 million in the past 12 months, with more than 6440 reports.
- Parcel delivery scams: with millions of packages moving across the country to get under a Christmas tree in time, scammers will send fake ‘missed delivery’ notices to potential victims. These scams are aimed at getting people to download malware or ransomware onto their PCs, which can be costly to remove; or steal their personal information. Scamwatch has received about 1700 reports of this scam in the past 12 months.
Your personal information is often just as valuable to a scammer as your money so always be careful about the information you give out online.
There are some simple tips you can follow to stay ahead of scammers these holidays.
If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Do your research on any online stores you’re using, especially if it’s for the first time. Never do a deal or make a payment outside the online auction site you are using. If you are buying from a classified website only hand over the money when you have physically inspected the goods. Finally, never open attachments or download files you receive out of the blue—no matter who the email comes from or how legitimate it looks."
Further information about holiday season scams is available at www.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.
Gut microbiome link to high blood pressure from high salt diets
High sodium intake and blood pressure go together like French fries and salt, but scientists have just discovered even more about how the connection works – and it’s something to do with your gut bacteria. In fact, their findings propose the gut microbiome as a potential therapeutic target.
A study has been published in ‘Nature’ which has found that a high salt diet reduced Lactobacillus bacteria in mice. After 14 days of high salt consumption several microbial species were decreased in the mice that had a high salt diet compared to the normal salt diet. The diet also caused the increased production of T helper (TH17) immune cells which are linked to high blood pressure. Using gene sequencing, they found the decrease of the bacteria Lactobacillus murinus from the Lactobacillus genus was most strongly associated with the high salt diet
The researchers took the next step to even demonstrate replenishing the guts of the salty mice with L.murinus reversed the effects. To top it all off they even did a small pilot study with healthy humans who increased their salt intake and found the same high blood pressure side effects as the mice.
The scientists suggest further trials with probiotics to see if they can prevent or treat salt related conditions like high blood pressure.
Source: Australia’s Science Channel: Gut microbiome linked to high blood pressure from high salt diets. 27/11/17
Researchers sugarcoat work looking into extending food shelf life’
Scientists have outlined a simple way to protect food from bacterial contamination that uses a “sugar–glass” coating containing virus–killing bacteria, which could be used in the food packaging and processing industries.
The technique embeds these viruses into food packaging, using a combination of sugars to keep them stable for up to 3 months, proving effective against the cheese – dwelling pathogenic bacteria Listeria monocytogenes.
“This study describes a method of preserving bacteriophage activity in a dry format that has great potential for use as a coatings,” said the study, led by Dr Carlos Philipe, Professor and chair of the Department of chemical engineering at McMaster University. “This can be used to create antimicrobial surfaces for food preparation and for food preservation.”
Bacteriophages or “phages’ are viruses that infect and kill bacteria and have proved useful for selectively decontaminating cheese – a food that uses beneficial bacteria to cultivate its flavour. Present on fruits and vegetables, phages do not affect the odour, taste, safety or appearance of foods, leading to possibilities that these “bacteria – eaters” could have a role in food safety.
Source: https: www.foodnavigator.com/Article/2017/11/20/Researchers
Author: Will Chu 20/11/17
Credit: 2017 William Reed Business media Ltd
Original source: ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering
Published online ahead of print DOI:10.1021/acsbiomaterials.7b00468
‘Long-term preservation of Bacteriophage Antimicrobials Using Sugar Glasses.’
Authors: Carlos Filipe, M. Monsur Ali et al
Diabetes from dairy? Cow’s milk ingredient may trigger type I condition: review
An ingredient in cow’s milk has been identified as a potential type I diabetes trigger in those with genetic risk factors, but researchers say they have been frustrated in efforts to make the findings available to the wider public. Seven researchers assessed 71 studies on population epidemiology, animal trials, in vitro laboratory experiments, biochemistry and pharmacology. The paper on the findings, originally published in the Journal of nutrition and diabetes, said that the A1 beta casein in cows’ milk is a primary causal trigger of the disease. However so far there have been no clinical trials on the subject.
Two of the seven researchers, the University of Auckland’s Professor Boyd Swinburn and Lincoln University’s Professor Keith Woodford explained: “People who are genetically susceptible to developing type I diabetes would need to be identified at birth, and half of them randomly allocated to a diet free of A1 beta-casein for many years.
The paper revealed that the sudden growth in the incidence of type I diabetes in China is correlated with the country’s threefold increase in dairy consumption per capita (from 6 kg in 1992 to 18 kg in 2006, with substantial increases thereafter). The paper also stated: “accordingly, the technological epidemiological data, although not proving causation, provide powerful evidence that A1 beta casein is a causal factor in the pathogenesis of type I diabetes.”
Note: some time ago the company producing cow’s milk free from A1 beta casein was forced to withdraw their advertising making a a health claim in this regard.
On his WordPress site, Woodford revealed that he and Swinburn had intended to make the paper free for public perusal, but in order to do that, they had to find a sponsor to pay a one – time fee to make the article free of charge. The a2 Milk Company stepped in and paid the US $3500 required to make the paper free – access.
Woodford wrote that one of the paper’s authors was a former a2 Milk Company employee, but said none of the authors were paid to write the paper.
Author: Cheryl Tay 7/11/17
Credit: 2017 William Reed Business Media Ltd
Australia’s top 10 food firms by revenue revealed, and soon none will be wholly home – owned.
A study of Australia’s largest food firms show 9/10 are at least partly owned by foreign companies… but with Murray Goulburn about to be sold to Canadian rival Saputo, that number will soon be zero.
Kiwi dairy giant Fonterra tops the revenue list followed by Coca-Cola Amatil – which is listed on the ASX but Coca-Cola is the largest shareholder – and Lion. Murray Goulburn took fourth spot, George Weston foods, Wilmar International, Nestle, Mondelez, Parmalat and Asahi make up the rest of the top 10.
A food map has been produced by the Public Health Advocacy Institute of Western Australia
(PHAIWA), which is now drawing attention to the fact that these 10 firms “either own or are connected to hundreds of different products, ranging from healthy to unhealthy options.”
PHAIWA director Dr Melissa Stoneham added the research showed that just 10 companies own a large share of Australia’s food industry. “We want Australians to be more aware of the connections between products they purchase and other companies, particularly when they may be unhealthy,” she said.
Author: Gary Scattergood 2/11/17
Credit: 2017 William Reed Business Media Limited.
Low sugar and GMO-free foods resonate more with today’s health – conscious consumer.
Nearly half of all consumers class low–sugar or sugar-free products as “extremely” or “very” important when deciding what to eat or drink with similar results for products free from genetically modified (GMO) ingredients.
The study, carried out by market research firm Gfk, also revealed that factors such as low–salt, organic, low-fat or fortified with vitamins or minerals score highly in the minds of the 23,000 consumers surveyed online. Worldwide, results found 48% of respondents thought products that were low-sugar or sugar-free were “extremely” or “very” important with equal number preferring products free from genetically modified ingredients. Low-sodium or low-salt products came third (45%) followed by low-fat or no fat (44%), use of local ingredients (38%) and gluten – free (26%).
Source: https://www.foodnavigator.com/Article/2017/10/30 Low-Sugar
Author: Will Chu 30/10/17
Credit: 2017 William Reed Business Media Ltd.
Diet will “become Australia’s biggest killer” – can apps help reverse the threat?
Experts are warning that diet will become the number one modifiable actor for disease and death in Australia, overtaking cigarettes. University of Sydney Professor of Dietetics Margaret Allman-Farinelli, said: “Obesity may take over from smoking as the number one risk for cancer, with a lack of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, exercise and increased alcohol consumption to blame.”
She was speaking ahead of a seminar reflecting on 50 years of dietetics in the country, which also heard that middle aged women are increasing their alcohol consumption. This trend could be linked to bigger serves of increasingly alcoholic wine. These women, whose tipples are closing the gap on men, are also gaining weight. The event also heard that PhD candidate Monica Nour has recently published research highlighting that young Australian men eat the fewest vegetables, which is linked to health problems including increased obesity.
To address this, she is developing an app to influence fruit and vegetable intake among young adults through gamification. With 90% of Aussies owning a smart phone and 91% on social media, she said it seems like the best platform to utilise. The app will include a self-monitoring veggie tracking program – a specialised function similar to apps like MyFitnessPal - though hers will focus on nutrient dense food intake rather than calories. “We demonstrate what an adequate serving of vegetable looks like and demonstrate how preparing your own food can be cheaper.”
Source: https://foodnavigator-asia.com/Article/2017/11/09 Diet-will….campaign
Author: Gary Scattergood 9/11/17
Credit: 2017 William Reed Business Media Ltd.
Sugar fuels aggressive cancer growth confirms breakthrough study.
The mechanism of action that show cancer cells’ use of sugars to “awaken” cancer cells and promote aggressive cancer growth provides further insights into creating tailor–made diets for cancer patients. Nature Communications report on further evidence to explain why tumours convert significantly higher amounts of sugar into lactate compared to healthy tissues, otherwise known as the Warburg effect.
Scientists from the Flanders Institute of Biotechnology believe they may have answered the question as to whether the effect is a symptom of cancer or a cause. “Our research reveals how the hyperactive sugar consumption of cancerous cells leads to a vicious cycle of continued stimulation of cancer development and growth,” explained Prof Johan Thevelein, co– lead study author from the University of Leuven.
“ Thus, it is able to explain the correlation between the strength of the Warburg effect and tumour aggressiveness.”
The nine-year joint research project conducted by the two institutions provides a new direction for and extensively studied area. As well as providing guidance for a more beneficial diet for cancer patients, the general population could well take heed of one more piece of evidence about the dangers of excessive sugar consumption.
For the food industry, attempted self-regulation have not been the expected success. So much so that governments have had to step in to impose various levies in an attempt to curb excess sugar consumption. The UK will introduce its soft drinks industry levy in April 2018.
Author: Will Chu 17/10/17
Credit: 2017 William Reed Business Media Ltd
Original Source: Nature Communications
Published online ahead of print doi:10.1038/s41467-017-01019-z
“Fructose-1,6-bisphosphate couples glycolytic flux to activation of Ras”
Authors: Johan Thevelein et al
Please check references for the full account of the articles mentioned.
The Consumers SA 2017 Annual General Meeting was held on 21 November. Members present heard a comprehensive report on the year’s activities from the Association’s President, Ian Butterworth FASAE JP.
In summary Ian noted that, "Committee Members manage to cover many areas of concern to consumers without any direct government financial assistance. Even though we are a small dedicated team of volunteers, we are asked many times to find representatives to attend a number of semi-government, and outside of government, Consumer Consultative Groups which we manage to do. So it is with great appreciation that I personally say well done, to all existing Committee members for their untiring dedication and effort over the past year".
Download a copy of Ian’s full report by clicking here.
In an email sent to members on 10 November, CHOICE urges all conumers to support its latest campaign for clear added sugar labelling in Australia. The email reads:
“Right now food companies don’t have to declare how much sugar they add to their food products. This makes it almost impossible for Australians to follow health advice to reduce added sugar intake.
But if we act now this could change soon. Health Ministers are meeting in just a few weeks, and they’re set to decide whether food companies should label added sugar.
Labels are for consumers, they are not for food companies to hide information about what is in their product. Can you take a minute to tell your state or territory Health Minister you want clear added sugar labelling?
Added sugar can cause lifelong damage to your teeth - everything from cavities to irreparable tooth damage. The stories and statistics are horrifying: In 2013 over 63,000 people (mostly children) were hospitalised due to preventable dental issues such as cavities or tooth decay.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. That’s why we’re teaming up with the Australian Dental Association to let people know about the dental risks associated with added sugar.
In the course of recent consultations the Essential Services Commission of SA has become aware that many energy consumers are not always familiar with what the Guaranteed Service Level (GSL) is, and what consumers can and can’t claim when specified service levels are not met.
Attached is a Fact Sheet from ESCOSA, that may also be found on their website, which explains what the GSL is and when it can be claimed.
SA Power Networks (SAPN) has advised consumers that it has progressively installed over 5,000 overhead line fault indicators aimed at improving electricity supply rectification times. See the details here. Consumers need to know what these indicator do so they can inform SAPN and help to reduce outage times.
Latest in an occasional series of reports on food matters of interest to consumers, compiled by Consumers SA Executive member Elaine Attwood.
MANUFACTURERS UNDER FIRE AS SALT LEVELS SOAR IN AUSSIE READY MEALS
Salt content in Australian ready meals has risen by 31% since 2010, new research reveals. This means the average ready meal contains 50% of an adult’s recommended daily salt intake, with some containing well over the maximum daily amount in a single serving. The report jointly published by the Georgia Institute for Global Health and VicHealth examined the salt content of 1478 supermarket ready meals including popular pasta, curry and noodle dishes, as well as traditional meat and vegetable meals. The serving sizes of ready meals vary significantly, thereby affecting how much salt is taken in a single serving. The number of supermarket ready meals captured increased from 208 products in 2010 to 473 products in 2017.
Heart Foundation Victoria CEO, Kelly-Ann Jolly said reducing the amount of salt in processed and packaged foods could save thousands of lives each year by reducing heart, stroke and kidney disease and until there is a commitment to reformulate these foods with less salt, we will continue to see an increase in the number of Australians with high blood pressure, a major contributor to heart disease, a condition that affects close to 6 million Australians. The “unpack the salt” campaign was launched in August by VicHealth and the Heart Foundation to raise consumer awareness about the high levels of salt in processed and packaged foods.
Source: Breaking News - Foodnavigator - Asia. 4/10/17
Author: Lester Wan 3/10/17. Credit: 2017 William Reed Business Media Ltd.
FOOD FIRMS URGED TO SIMPLIFY FOOD DATE LABELS WORLDWIDE BY 2020.
Food companies have been urged to simplify food date labels worldwide by 2020, by the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) , which counts Tesco, Kellogg, Walmart, Nestle, Carrefour and Unilever amongst its members. The CGF last month called for companies to simplify “sell by”, “display until” and “best before” dates, which can cause confusion and cost families huge amounts through unnecessarily waste. It urged retailers and food producers to take three important steps to simplify date labels and reduce food waste by 2020: use only one label at a time; make a choice of two labels – one expiration date for perishable items (e.g. “use by”) and one food quality indicators for non-– perishable items (e.g. “best if used by”); and undertake consumer education, so that they better understand what date labels mean.
At a recent meeting the CGF - a network of 400 of the biggest consumer goods companies across 70 countries, along with Champions 12.3 – a coalition of more than three dozen leaders across governments, business and civil society, approved the call to standardise the date labels worldwide by 2020. Companies were also urged to partner with non-profit organisations and government agencies to educate consumers on how to interpret date labels. Around 1.3 billion tonnes of food worldwide is wasted each year.
Author: Rick Pendrous 9/10/17 Credit: 2017 William Reed Business Media Ltd.
AUSTRALIAN FOOD AND GROCERY INDUSTRIES FEEL THE HEAT FROM RISING GAS PRICES.
Food, beverage and grocery – Australia’s largest manufacturing sectors – are set to be hard-hit by rising gas prices and other pressures. The Australian Food and Grocery Council’s (AFGC) State of the Industry Report 2017 states that the rising cost of gas could put at risk the sector’s 33% of Australian manufacturing jobs. Tanya Barden, CEO, AFGC, said that input costs are rising on everything from commodities to labour to energy, and the six years of retail price deflation and rising labour costs the industries have undergone “continues to cut margins, placing the sector under increasing pressure”. The report, compiled by EY, highlights strong employment growth and encouraging capital investment (4.7% increase) in the last financial year. However, unexpected increases in input costs as well as falling exports and flat overall turnover could impact the recent turnaround.
Glenn Carmody, consumer and industrial products market segment leader, EY, commented: “Growing markets in Asia and the improvement of market access through free trade agreements should further support the industry’s growing export market and provide additional opportunities.” He did also point out that the sector faces a number of challenges including a decline in productivity.
Source: www.foodnavigator - asia. com/Headlines/Markets/Australia 24/10/17
Author: Lester Wan 18/10/17 Credit: 2017 William Reed Business Media Ltd
FOOD HANDOUTS INCREASING WITH SKYROCKETING POWER BILLS
The number of South Australians requiring assistance to access food has increased by 21% over the past year, a charity says, with electricity prices largely to blame. The latest report by charity Foodbank SA indicates more than 102,000 South Australians needed help to get food in the past year, compared with 85,000 the previous year.
Foodbank SA CEO Greg Pattinson said the figure was the worst the organisation had seen and was largely attributed to rising electricity prices, although job losses and lack of employment opportunities were contributing factors. “The main difference seems to be in bill shock, where people are having to seek food because of unexpected or high bills and, in particular in South Australia, we’re seeing utility bills as being the big one”, he said.
The ACCC today (24 October 2017), released a report that found the average power bill for South Australian households had increased by 48% since 2007 – 08. While the rest of the country suffered increases largely due to increased network costs, in South Australia it was attributed mainly to generation costs.
South Australia Council on Social Services, (SACOSS) when speaking as part of antipoverty week, says there was little awareness of the extra costs being shouldered by people on low or fixed incomes. It said that people often had to pay more for groceries, utilities and telecommunications because they did not have the disposable income to buy in bulk or pay up front and earn discounts.
SACOSS policy officer, Greg Ogle said, “We can actually look and understand just how inadequate income supports like Newstart and Youth Allowance are, so we are certainly calling for an increase in income support payments to help people who are struggling with these poverty premiums”.
Source: ABC News 16/10/17. Credit: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-16/sa-electricity-prices-blamed-for-more-food-handourts/9053426?WT.ac=localnews.adelaide
For full articles please go to the references supplied.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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?
- What does SA Water do well?
- What services would you like to see SA Water improve?
- Do you have any other suggestions on how these services can be improved?
Please email your answers and any other comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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.
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"
"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."
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!
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.
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."
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.
- 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.
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: email@example.com