Latest in an occasional series of articles on food related issues of interest to consumers from Consumers SA’s Elaine Attwood.

From fermented foods to sustainable sourcing: how industry can help fight the world’s vanishing biodiversity.

 The biodiversity essential for food production is disappearing by the day, says a damning report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) - yet there are areas for positive action. This first -of–kind- report suggests steps manufacturer’s could take to be part of the solution. Biodiversity for food and agriculture refers to all plants and animals – wild and domesticated – that provide food, feed, fuel, and fibre. Associated biodiversity is the myriad of organisms that make food production possible through “ecosystem services” – from earthworms and fungi that keep soil fertile to bees and birds that pollinate plants; from coral that keep fish healthy to bacteria that fight crop and livestock pests. Essential to our food system, it is disappearing by the day, and once lost, cannot be recovered, warns the FAO reportState of the World's Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture,published (22nd February). 

 The report authors allow the figures to speak for themselves: of the 6000 plant species that can be cultivated for food, just nine crops account for 66% of the total crop production. 40 animal species make up the world’s livestock production, and “a handful” of these provide most of our meat, milk, and eggs. There are 7745 local breeds of livestock in the world and over one quarter (26%) are at risk of extinction. Meanwhile nearly 1/3 of fish stocks are overfished and more than half have reached their sustainable limit.

 Compounded by our reliance on fewer and fewer species to feed ourselves, the increasing loss of biodiversity for food and agriculture puts food security and nutrition at risk,”said FAO’s director-general Jose Graziano da Silva.  The reasons behind this rapidly declining loss are the same in many countries: changing land and water uses, pollution, overexploitation and over harvesting, climate change, and population growth and urbanisation.

 The article goes on to point out where there has been some areas for optimism; biodiversity – friendly practices such as organic agriculture, integrated pest management, sustainable soil management, Agro ecology, diversified practices in aquaculture, and adopting ecosystem approaches to fishing.


Author: Niamh Michail

Credit:  @2019 - William Reed Business Media Ltd


“Reshaping” sweetness: ingredion’s Stevia and Saraya’s monk fruit latest additions to Australia and New Zealand’s sugar reduction arsenal.

 ‘BESTEVIA® Reb M Stevia leaf sweetener is 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar’, said Ingredion via its website.  ‘The sugar – reduction trend is reshaping the way manufacturers formulate for sweet taste globally,”added Ingredion Innovation Director Eric Weisser via the official press release. “The world wide trend towards clean labels (also) supports the use of nature-based, non-– GMO, sustainable ingredients (like in this sweetener),” added Sweegan. According to the FSANZ website, Reb M is classified as a steviol glycoside intense sweetener, which in turn is considered a food additive. 

 Monk fruit: Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) approved an application made by Saraya Co. Ltd., to permit the use of monk fruit extract as a food additive to perform the technological purpose of an intense sweetener. “It has a relative lack of bitter taste and can be used as a sugar substitute in baking (as it has high temperature stability and no unpleasant aftertaste).”Previously monk fruit was only permitted for sale in Australia and New Zealand as a fruit or drink flavouring.


Author:  Pearly Neo

Source: © 2019 - William Reed Business Media Ltd.


TGA advises “extreme caution’ after detecting cancer-causing contaminant in Chinese herbal pills.

Australian regulator ,the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is advising “extreme caution” when purchasing health supplements online after discovering cancer– causing contaminants in a Chinese herbal cough product.  Samples of China herbal medicine company Beijing Tong Ren Tang’s bronchi-cough pills, Qiguanyan Kesou Tanchuanwan, were tested by the TGA’s laboratories for undeclared ingredients as part of a routine survey of the quality of medicines on the Australian market. This led to the discovery of two prohibited substances, aristolochic acid and amygdalin - in one of the batches and one prohibited substance (amygdalin) in another batch. The Australian branch of the company has since issued an urgent recall of both batches of the product, whose prohibited substances are listed in schedule 10 of the TGA’s Poisons Standard. The standard labels such substances as being‘such danger to health as to warrant Prohibition of sale, supply, and use”, as consuming them even in low doses can be detrimental to health. In its public notice, the TGA said:“if you or someone you provide care for takes bronchi – cough pills, please be alerted to this issue and discontinue use immediately. The product should not be consumed. If you have any bronchi – cough pills, the remaining product can be returned to the place of purchase for a refund.”


Author: Cheryl Tay

Source:  © 2019 - William Reed Business Media Ltd


‘This causes concern for the future of coffee production”: 60% of wild coffee species threatened with extinction.

New research shows that 60% of all wild coffee species are under threat of extinction due to climate change, deforestation, and fungal pathogens and pests. Furthermore, wild Arabica coffee - the origin of the world’s most popular coffee – is now categorised as an endangered species.

Scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England, have carried out an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species assessment for all 124 coffee species. The findings paint “a picture of concern for the long – term future of global coffee production” – but scientists say interventions today could make a big difference to the future of the sector. The multi – billion dollar coffee sector relies on just two species: Arabica (60%) and Robusta (40%). But with growing threats to coffee farming, it is likely that farmers will have to turn to other species for crop development. But with 60% of all wild coffee species threatened, the potential of such species may be short lived. Dr Aaron Davis, head of Coffee Research at Kew, said: “Among the coffee species threatened with extinction are those that have potential to be used to breed and develop the coffees of the future, including those resistant to disease and capable of withstanding worsening climatic conditions.


Author: Rachel Arthur 

Source: © 2019 - William Freed Business Media Ltd.


Note: For the full transcript of the above articles please refer to the reference given.

AuthorRay Dennis