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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Australian restaurant joins researchers to study native foods.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Food packaging chemical linked to chronic disease: SA study.

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

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

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

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

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


Woolworths and Coles will ban plastic bags from the supermarkets.

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

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

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


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

AuthorRay Dennis