According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), faulty products continue to cause serious injury and harm to thousands of Australians, with more than 4.5 million items recalled by suppliers in the 2017-18 financial year.
New figures show at least 10 people a day are injured and require medical attention as a result of unsafe products, according to mandatory reports provided to the ACCC by manufacturers and retailers.
“Ten injuries a day due to defective products is alarming, but we suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg as many more consumers don’t report injuries to the product suppliers at all,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
“Australians would be surprised to hear that it is not illegal to supply unsafe products in Australia, as it is in a range of places like the United Kingdom, European Union, Canada, Malaysia and Brazil. We think consumers should be able to expect the products they purchase aren’t going to cause them an injury.”
“The number of Australians being injured by unsafe products is far too high, and we encourage people to sign up to recalls information or follow us on social media so they can be alerted to any potential risks in their homes,” Ms Rickard said.
Latest in an occasional series of reports on food matters of interest to consumers, compiled by Consumers SA Executive member Elaine Attwood.
Boosting allergen information: FSANZ launches new portal with industry backing.
Food standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has launched a new look Food Allergen Portal, following collaboration between the food industry and consumer and government stakeholders. The Allergen Collaboration, first formed in 2011, seeks to use the portal to provide different sectors in the community with links to best practice food allergen resources and key messages to promote knowledge and safety.
“Food allergies can be a matter of life and death, so it is vital that each sector can easily find the best available information to help those living with food allergies. All sectors of the community need to be aware of their responsibilities and how they can help people who have a food allergy,” said Mark Booth, CEO of FSANZ. Each sector’s page has his own allergy information, key messages or best practices and links to more resources. The Food Allergen Portal also reminds food manufacturers, retailers and importers to ensure the proper labelling of imports and to provide clear, up-to-date and accurate information about the allergen status of their product.
Author: Lester Wan 07-Aug-2018: 201 - William Reed Business Media Ltd.
Australia/NZ regulator seeks to overhaul charging structure for amendments to food standards code
Food companies seeking to secure amendments to the Food Standards Australia New Zealand’s Code of Standards could face a revised set of costs, under plans put forward for consultation. Acting FSANZ CEO Peter May, said the new Cost Recovery Implementation Statement (CRIS) reflected the administrative costs associated with certain applications to amend the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.
“In the past, FSANZ has developed and implemented a cost recovery model that was based on a blended hourly rate applicable to the entire agency rather than an hourly rate for each staff level. In this CRIS, in response to industry submissions, we propose a new model that provides a fixed rate for those elements of the work schedule that are generic for all procedures and a variable rate for the variable elements,”said the regulator.
Decisions by the FSANZ board to approve variations in the code are subject to consideration by the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation whose members are ministers from the Australian State, Territory and New Zealand governments. Less than 2% of FSANZ’s total revenue is generated through cost recovery and only a small number of applications to amend the code incur costs.
Author: Lester Wan - 09-Jul-2018: 2018 - William Reed Business Media Ltd
Packaged foods in Australia: ultra – processed products making people “fat and sick”
Six out of ten Australian packaged foods are highly or ultra – processed, more than half are discretionary or junk foods, and just one third are healthy, according to a stark new analysis.
Researchers at the George Institute for Global Health, who published their findings in the journal Nutrients, warned that urgent action is needed to improve the nutritional make up of packaged foods. “Our research shows that Australia’s packaged food environment is full of foods laden in sugar, fat and salt that are also highly processed,” said lead researcher Michelle Crino.
Crino’s team examined more than 40,000 packaged food items ranging from breads to sauces, confectionery, canned foods, oils and dairy products.
Based on their analysis the researchers found that 53% of Australian package supermarket foods are comprised of energy-dense and nutrient-poor discretionary products, such as sweetened soft drinks, biscuits, chocolate, meat pies, butter and salty snacks. Of the products analysed just over one third had a health star rating of 3.5 or higher, which usually indicates a basic level of healthfulness.
“It’s a sad reflection of the state of our food industry that half of all packaged foods are essentially junk foods that we should only be eating occasionally. We have to find a way to make junk food less profitable, because what works for the industry’s bottom line is a disaster for the nation’s waistline,” Prof Neil said. “Australians haven’t chosen to be obese - they are obese because selling cheap, unhealthy food everywhere, all the time, is how industry profits are maximised.” He urged the government to step in and find a balance between supporting the food industry while looking after the nation’s health. To do so doesn’t mean putting companies out of business, but promoting healthier options and devising better labelling,’ he added.
Author: RJ Whitehead 24-Jul-2018: 2018 William Reed Business Media Ltd.
Encapsulated curcumin shows potential to rival tartrazine as yellow food colour.
With demand for natural food colours continuing to increase, supercritical anti-solvent (SAS) technology may allow for encapsulated curcumin to replace artificial tartrazine, according to a new study from scientists in Colombia and Spain.
The global food colours market is predicted to reach 3.75 billion in 2022, according to Markets and Markets, with a compound annual growth rate of over 8% between 2016 and 2022. Natural colours occupying the largest slice of the market, it added. Tartrazine is a synthetic yellow dye used in a variety of food and beverage products, but demand for natural alternatives has led to curcumin, the yellow pigment in turmeric (Curcuma longa L.)
Author: Stephen Daniells: 2018 William Reed Business Media Ltd
Ed. Note: Tartrazine (102) has long been associated with allergic response in some people and to find an alternative, particularly a natural alternative would be very welcome.
Sustainable sugar: Australia to employ blockchain to boost provenance and profitability.
The Australian sugar industry’s push for greater sustainability and traceability has received a shot in the arm, with its Coalition government providing an A$2.25 million grant to fund the Sustainable Sugar Project.
“The Sustainable Sugar Project aims to meet the needs of end-users who require sustainability-produced sugar and to develop transparency around the market for that sugar. By using Smartcane BMP and blockchain technology, Canegrowers is seeking to provide provenance for our product, increase our market access and provide greater value to growers and the market,” a spokeswoman from
Canegrowers told Foodnavigator–Asia. Australia’s Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources said big sugar buyers are likely to pay more in the future for sustainably-grown and fully-traceable sugar as their customers ask for it. The encrypted data in the use of blockchain can clearly shows buyers where the sugarcane came from and prove provenance and sustainability of that farm, said the government.
Author:Lester Wan 31-Jul-2018: 2018 William Reed Business Media Ltd.
Billerudkorsnas & Uppsala University to create paper battery for smart packaging.
The above universities in Sweden are one step closer to making paper batteries, with pure cellulose from algae, for applications including smart packaging. The three-year project involves developing energy storage in fibre structures with electrically conductive polymers, that is the storage of electrical energy in a sheet of paper or cardboard. “Tomorrow’s packaging will offer consumers more functions than today. Electrical energy stored in the actual paper material opens up brand-new possibilities for creating these functions and we want to explore the conditions for this in collaboration with Uppsala University”, chief technology officer, Magnus Wikstrom of Billerudkorsnas said.
“Storing energy in paper instead of in lithium batteries allows for bio-based batteries than can form part of a circular system, which provides major sustainability benefits’, added Wikstrom.
Author: Jenny Eagle 02-Aug-2018: 2018 William Reed Business Media Ltd.
Note: Full texts of the articles may be found in the references.
The Winter 2018 Consumers SA Newsletter is being mailed out to all members this weekend. It includes:
A number of informative articles reprinted from CBS Connect and CHOICE on:
- ticket scalping
- tips for ride-share and short term rentals
- staying safe this winter
- travelling con men
- CBS Compliance update
- CBS Tenancies update
- safe food for our pets
- new Country of Origin Labelling Laws
More food related items in a new FOOD BITES collection
- electricity prices
- updated labelling rules for sports nutrition supplements
- a new Scam Watch Radar Alert – "Beware investment wolves knocking at the door"
Reports on the attendance by Consumers SA Executive Committee members at:
- the May 2018 ISO Unit Pricing Committee Meeting in Japan
- the June 2018 International Consumer Policy Committee meeting in Bali.
Click on the headings below to read more about these items from the Consumer Federation’s July newsletter:
According to the Consumer Policy Research Centre‘s (CPRC's) recent report Consumer data & the digital economy, Australians are spending more of their lives online. 87% were active internet users in 2017, more than 17 million use social networking sites, and 84% of Australians are now buying products online.
Significant benefit and innovation can flow from open data. To deliver sustainable growth of new technologies and industries, it’s crucial that we put consumers in the driver’s seat.
Consumer advocates have welcomed the findings of the ACCC's Retail Electricity Pricing Inquiry Final Report.
A proposal to prevent credit cards becoming a lifelong debt sentence has been welcomed by Consumer Action Law Centre.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority invites applications from consumer organisations to join its key telco consumer advisory group by 25 July.
Australian consumers will have much greater certainty about the origins of the food they buy, due to the introduction of mandatory Country of Origin food labelling.
As consumers, we want a digital world that we can trust. The recently published ISO 20488 standard on Online consumer reviews is a great tool to help with this.
The small print sizes many businesses use to show the unit price of pre-packaged grocery and similar products is a major problem in Australia and other countries.
With China no longer willing to accept material from Australia for potential recycling, it is time for a national discussion about what can truthfully be labelled as “recyclable” going forward in Australia.
Dr Martin Gill reviews a solar installer's analysis suggesting a strata complex would recover the cost of investing in a solar system in “just over 4 years”.
CFA has developed a set of good practice principles to offer guidance to industry bodies and EDR schemes about good practice in ensuring effective consumer input, including good practice in involving the consumer sector.
Today, CHOICE released safety test results for cots and strollers showing that alarming numbers fail key safety tests. According to CHOICE:
"These failures show that we need stronger product safety laws, to make sure the things we buy for ourselves and our families are safe. You can see the full list of failed products here.
We deserve to be able to trust that when we buy something, it won’t hurt us or our loved ones. But right now there is no requirement in Australian consumer law that businesses make sure products are safe before they are sold.
We think this needs to change - and urgently.
We need to act now, while this is in the news and politicians are paying attention. Treasury is about to start consulting on options for making our product safety laws stronger. By joining the campaign, you can show our leaders that we expect strong rules that keep dangerous products off the shelves.
Other places, including Canada, the UK and the EU, have laws that say products must be safe in order to be sold. It's time we catch up, and make sure Australians aren't getting stuck with dodgy, dangerous goods.
P.S. If you'd like more information on the products that have failed CHOICE tests, you can read all about it here. "
Latest in an occasional series of reports on food matters of interest to consumers, compiled by Consumers SA Executive member Elaine Attwood.
Slashing sugar: Biggest Australian beverage companies to cut content by 20% over next seven years.
A 20% sugar reduction across non-alcoholic products will take place in Australia by 2025, the nation’s Beverages Council has announced. Around 80% of the non-alcoholic beverage industry, including Coca-Cola South Pacific, Coca-Cola Amatil, PepsiCo, Asahi Beverages and Frucor Suntory have pledged their commitment to the initiative.
The plan will be carried out in two phases, namely a 10% sugar reduction by 2020 from 2016 levels, which will then be followed by a total reduction of 20% by 2025. The sugar reduction plan will affect carbonated fruit drinks, energy drinks, sports and electrolyte drinks, frozen drinks, bottled and packaged waters, juice and fruit drinks, cordials, iced teas, ready to drink coffee’s, flavoured milk products and flavoured plant milks. The Council said the move is to promote healthier lifestyles and to tackle obesity in Australia.
“This commitment is the first example in Australia where an industry as a whole has self regulated its use of sugar in this manner,” said Geoff Parker, chief executive officer at the Australian Beverages Council. The companies’ progress in sugar reduction will be evaluated by an independent auditor, which will be appointed by the Council.
Bearing in mind the need for consumers’ choice, Mr Parker added that the high sugar versions of drinks such as Coke would “absolutely” still be available.
Author: Tingmin Koe: 2018 William Reed Pty. Ltd
Toothpaste and hand wash boost antibiotic resistance.
A common ingredient in toothpaste and hand wash could be contributing to antibiotic resistance, new research suggests. Scientists identified the chemical triclosan, a compound used in more than 2000 personal care products, which finds its way into the water system.
“Wastewater from residential areas has similar or even higher levels of antibiotic resistant bacteria and antibiotic resistant genes compared to hospitals, where you would expect greater antibiotic concentrations,” Dr. Jianhu Guo of the University of Queensland’s Advanced Water Management Centre, who led the study, says.
Dr Guo said that few researchers have focused on non – antibiotic, antimicrobial chemicals in connection with antibiotic resistance. “These chemicals are used in much larger quantities at an everyday level, so you end up with high residual levels in the wider environment, which can induce multi – drug resistance.”
Advanced Water Management Centre Director, Professor Zhiguo Yuan, said the discovery should be a wake-up call to re-evaluate the potential impact of such chemicals.
Credit: 22/6/18 Australia’s Science Channel
Is Australia ready for a nationwide single – use plastics ban?
An Australian Senate Inquiry has recommended a nationwide ban on all single – use plastics, which will include plastic bags, takeaway containers, plastic – lined coffee cups and chip packets, by 2023. Separately, from July 1, single – use plastic bags have been banned in all but two Australian states, Victoria and New South Wales, while the top two supermarket chains, Coles and Woolworths, have also instituted a nationwide band.
The Senate’s comprehensive report into Australia’s ongoing recycling crisis called for the promotion of a national “circular economy”, in which all waste materials can be recovered and reused within the country. Vital to this is the recommended establishment of a National Deposit Container Scheme to collect waste and develop high – revenue streams.
Previously it has been reported that the Australian federal and state governments had set a target for all packaging in the country to be reusable, compostable or recyclable by 2025. About 35% of Australia’s recycled plastics and 30% of recyclable paper and cardboard have been affected by China refusing to take our recycled waste from January this year, and has resulted in a shortage of landfills and an excess in stockpiles in the country.
Dr Robert Crocker, Carbon Reduction Commitment researcher at the University of South Australia, commented, “We presently lack industrial experience and expertise in the kinds of high – tech recycling currently undertaken in Europe and China. We need to invest in developing or redeveloping these skills in Australia so that we can responsibly manage our own wastes and re- use our resources more profitably. This will mean funding research and education in “resource management” and not just pretending it’s all about just “recycling” a few cans. Most single – use plastics are now produced in billions. We need to develop legislation that can weed out these problem plastics from entering the market before they take hold and become a danger to the environment.”
According to a Parliament of Australia report in 2016, Australians use 3.92 billion light weight plastic grocery bags in the year, and it is estimated that approximately 80 million bags become litter each year.
Author: Lester Wan: William Reed Business Media Ltd
Health snippet: At last! We now know how this anti-cancer gene works.
Mutations in this gene are responsible for half of human cancers. Nearly 40 years ago a gene was discovered which laid the foundations of our understanding of how our own bodies stop rogue cells turning into cancerous ones. The gene, called p53 regulates how cells react to various stresses and instruct an out-of-control cell to stop multiplying or die.
For the first time, Melbourne scientists have found that a specific group of genes that work in the body’s normal DNA repair process, are vital to p53’s effectiveness in stopping cancer.
“It is defects (mutations) in this gene that actually causing 50% of human cancers,” says lead author Dr Ana Janic. “It’s really exciting because we’ve kind of opened the window for many new discoveries in this area.” The researchers meticulously screened more than 300 genes directly regulated by p53 to identify which ones were critical for its tumour – suppressing function. The research team discovered that the DNA repair gene MLH1 as well as other related genes are critical to p53’s ability to prevent the development of B – cell lymphomas.
Dr Janic says that while the results may take several years to translate into a treatment it provides a pathway for personalised treatment options for many types of cancer. “For instance, if a patient has lymphoma with a mutation that disables the DNA repair mechanism, doctors will now know to avoid certain DNA damaging treatments, like chemotherapy, that may only make the cancer more aggressive,” she said. The next steps will focus on understanding if the DNA repair process has the same cancer – blocking impact on cancers other than lymphoma, such as colon cancers in which 70% are caused by p53 mutations.
Source: Nature Medicine: https://australiascience.tv/at-last-we-now-know-how-thi-anti-cancer-gene-works/
Note: For full details of the above articles, please go to the reference provided.
Two years ago the government announced new Country of Origin laws. Industry was given two years to comply and - as of 1 July - the labelling is now mandatory.
There are four categories that can be identified for consumer benefit:
- Grown in...
- Produced in...
- Made in...
- Packed in...
Country of Origin must be identified, or if a mix of foods from different countries, a retailer can choose to state each Country of Origin in the mix, or label that it is a mix of of local and imported food or a mix of imported foods.
The new rules do not apply to the hospitality industry and therefore restaurants are free to import foods and not declare their origin.
The government has said it will be watching for non-compliance. Foods produced before 1 July 2018 are exempt.
For further information, visit the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission at: www.accc.gov.au
Latest in an occasional series of reports on food matters of interest to consumers, compiled by Consumers SA Executive member Elaine Attwood.
Graphic warning labels ‘most effective in reducing consumers’ tendencies to buy sugar-sweetened beverages.
Front of Pack (FOP) labels with graphic warnings are the most effective in reducing intended sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) purchases, according to researchers from Australia.
They argue that labels showing decayed teeth and warning text are able to reduce the number of SSB consumers by 36%. SSBs refer to any non-alcoholic drink with added sugar including soft drinks, flavoured waters, energy drinks, iced tea and fruit drinks (with added sugar).
The research conducted by the Global Obesity Centre, Monash University Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food, and the NSW Ministry of Health recruited 994 participants aged between 18 and 35 last year.
It was found that participants who were exposed to both graphic and text warnings were least likely to buy an SSB. Only 28% of them will choose an SSB, as compared to the control group, where 64% of them will choose an SSB.
The study also suggested that the warning labels will raise the health awareness of the participants, influencing them to consider the healthiness of the drink, (HSR) before making the decision to buy the product. Of the four types of warning labelling, the HSR is the only existing FOP label in the Australian market, introduced by the government in 2014.
Source: Appetite DOI:10.1016/j.appet.2018.05.149
Natassja Billich, et al: ‘The effect of sugar-sweetened beverage front-of-pack labels on drink selection, health knowledge and awareness: an online randomised controlled trial.’ Foodnavigator 19/6/18, reported by Tingmin Koe: William Reed Business Media Ltd.
Ground-breaking food bacteria scanner in New Zealand will have ‘global impact’
A ‘game-changing’ scanner that can quickly identify harmful strains of bacteria in food has just arrived in New Zealand.
The scanner, called a BEAM device, was developed at Purdue University in the United States with an initial focus on the US market. The only device of its kind outside the US, it has since been offered free of charge to Associate Professor Stephen On of Lincoln University in Canterbury, NZ.. This initiative was a result of a partnership between Dr On, a taxonomy expert – specialising in classification, especially of organisms – and two senior US food safety researchers.
Dr On recently received an $80,000 catalyst grant from the New Zealand Royal Society Te Aparangi to use the scanner for locally focused research that will complement the studies already being undertaken in the US. Lincoln University said the resulting data will be pooled for “maximum global impact”.
The BEAM scanner is designed to better identify disease outbreak by providing a “specific fingerprint” of bacteria cultured on a standard agar media plate. This allows scientists to pinpoint strains of interest more quickly, with a particular focus on pathogens.
Dr. On said the economic and public health significance of pathogenic E. coli remained of critical importance and partners of the New Zealand Food Safety and Science Research Centre (including ESR and Plant and Food Research) had identified other bacterial pathogens of concern, such as Campylobacter and Listeria.
Author: Lester Wan: 2018: William Reed Business M:edia Ltd
WHO urges ban on industrial trans-fats by 2023.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called upon governments to eliminate industrially produced trans–fatty acids from the food supply by 2023. The agency estimates that every year trans- fat intake leads to more than 500,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease. Industrially produced trans – fats are found in hardened vegetable fats, such as margarine, and often in snacks, baked and fried foods. Manufacturers use them as they have a longer shelf life than other fats. Trans–fatty acids can also occur naturally in meat and dairy products from ruminant animals (e.g. cattle, sheep, goats et cetera).
The six step guide called REPLACE comes after WHO opened a consultation until 1 June to review draft guidelines on intake of trans–fats and saturated fats for adults and children. WHO recommend total trans–fat intake be limited to less than 1% of total energy intake, which is less than 2.2g a day with a 2000 calorie diet. It said diets high in trans–fat increase heart disease risk by 21% and deaths by 28%.
- REview dietary sources of industrially produced fats and the landscape for required policy change
- Promote replacement of industrially-produced trans-fats with healthier fats and oils.
- Legislate or enact regulatory actions to eliminate industrially-produced trans fats.
- Assess and monitor trans-fats content in food supply and changes in trans-fat consumption in the population.
- Create awareness of negative health impacts of trans-fats among policy makers, producers suppliers and the public.
- Enforce compliance of policies and regulations.
Author: Joseph James Whitworth: 2018 William Reed Business Media Ltd
France looks set to ban titanium dioxide.
As France looks poised to ban titanium dioxide by the end of 2018, the government has praised “pioneering” manufacturers for voluntarily removing the colouring from food products. “We want to ban the use of this food additive in France by the end of the year,” Sec of State to the Minister for Ecological and Solidarity Transition, Brune Poirson, told French national Le Parisien last week. French policymakers have already prepared an amendment to the draft law as part of the General States of the Food Industry that allows it, “if necessary”, to ban titanium dioxide and its use in food by the end of 2018. The additive has no nutritional value and “it’s only virtue is aesthetic”, the government said.
Listed as E 171 in Europe, titanium dioxide is a colouring, mainly used in sweets, chewing gum, bakery and sauces to give a white, opaque or cloudy effect. It is also a principal component in sunscreen because it reflects UV light, and is used in toothpaste and paint.
However, the UN’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified it as a possible human carcinogen.
Author: Niamh Michail : 2018 William Reed Business Media Ltd
Please check references for full reports of these articles.
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
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.