Latest in an occasional series of articles on consumer food issues compiled by Consumers SA Executive Committee member Elaine Attwood.


Could PEF from sugarcane be more economical than PET at scale?

 Researchers in eastern Australia have started work on a three month pilot plant to prove the economic viability of turning sugarcane waste into other compounds, including plastic drinking bottles. The program is being run by Darryn Rackemann, a senior research fellow at Queensland University of Technology’s centre forTropical Crops and Biocommodities,  and will be carried out at Gladstone north of Brisbane. It is being undertaken in partnership with Mercurius Australia using a process patented by the start up’s U.S.-based parent Mercurius Biorefining. This has the potential to convert the fibre left over after sugarcane is pressed, known as bagasse, and other types of biomass into cost-effective biofuels and biochemicals. These include PEF, a material that many experts have touted as being a successor to BET.

“The science has been proven. The engineering now is trying to prove the economics. And once the economics are proven, we can roll out the technology further,” Dr. Rackemann, told Beverage Daily. Queensland has a substantial sugar cane industry, harvesting about 35 million tonnes each year and producing several million tonnes of potential bagasse. John Clark, director of Ant Packaging in northern New South Wales, a plastic bottle supplier, said the market was satisfied with PET but was always looking out for novel materials that are even more practical and sustainable than the global standard. PEF is lighter and stronger than PET. “It also has better barrier properties for oxygen and other gases. That’s why many people think it would be a good replacement for PET bottles and packaging”, said Dr Rackemann.


Author: Richard Whitehead 10-April-2019

Source: © 2019 - William Reed Business Media Ltd.   

“Lack of evidence”: Researchers demand stricter FSANZ governance of food – health relationship claims

Australian researchers are calling for stricter governance over regulator FSANZ’s food–health relationship claims system, after arguing that 40.3% of product claims have not been proven with substantial evidence. “Food – health relationships” refer to general level health claims that suggest a relationship between the product and health, for example that it contained calcium for strong bones, or fibre for heart health. “There must be a nutrient mentioned, as well as a link to a health benefit,” Cancer Council Australian Nutrition Program Manager and co-researcher on the report, Wendy Watson told Foodnavigator– Asia. A total of 67 such food–health relationship claims were reported to the FSANZ notification website between the years of 2013 to 2017.

Of these, 27 (40.3%) were found to be ‘concerning” to Watson and her team after conducting their own independent assessments of relevant existing literature, and were flagged to the respective state enforcement agencies.

Of note is the fact that, at present, food manufacturers are allowed to print and market all food – health relationship claims that they have notified FSANZ of, provided the product is of a certain “healthiness” level (not high in fat, salt, sugar et cetera.) and the claim has been “self – substantiated”. At present there is no governing system in place to check on the quality of these reviews, so basically the claims do not need to be verified by any authority before these are publicised on product labels, advertisements and so on. “The lack of a more stringent process in place is not protecting the consumer, as these claims can influence their purchasing decisions”.


Author: Pearly Neo 10-April-2019

Source:  © 2019 - William Reed Business mediaLtd.

The three diets researchers say are even more harmful than smoking

Diets high in salt are one of the main causes of diet–related death, a Lancet study shows. Poor diets are killing more people in the world than tobacco smoking, a large Lancet analysis recently showed. According to the global analysis – funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - one in five lives were cut short in 2017 due to “sub- optimal” eating habits. This resulted in 11 million deaths worldwide, the study authors estimated. Researchers said there were three main bad eating behaviours behind the deadly diet trends. These are high salt, not enough whole grains and not enough fruit. Diets containing too much sodium were linked to 3 million deaths worldwide, while diets lacking in whole grains and fruit contributed to another 5 million deaths combined. The causes of these diet–related deaths included cardiovascular disease (10 million global deaths), cancer (913,000), and type II diabetes (almost 339,000), the authors said.

According to the researchers, Australians are healthier eaters than many of our global counterparts. In 2017, 14.7% of Australian deaths was thought to be related to diet, compared to 22% of global deaths. Australia is doing much better than it was almost 3 decades ago – in 1990, 25.2% of Australian deaths were linked to diet. (Global Burden of Disease study 2019)  Globally the main foods lacking in many diets were nuts and seeds, whole grains and milk, the authors said. The study also found that many Australians and New Zealanders eat far too much red meat, processed meat, soft drinks, and foods high in trans-fats and sodium every day. In an accompanying editorial, University of Cambridge’s Prof. Nita Forouhi said the cost of some healthy foods are “prohibitive” for many people in lower income settings. Health groups in Australia have called for a national nutrition strategy. The Dietitians Association of Australia criticised the government for leaving out nutrition initiatives from the 2019 federal budget.

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Author: Mahsa Fratantoni 5th April 2019.

Behind the “most sustainable company in the world”: Chr. Hansen 

 The company, Chr. Hansen has divulged its own sustainable practices, covering water reduction, renewable energy, and use of plastics, having secured first place in Corporate Knights’ 2019 ranking. Last month, (January 2019) Danish bioscience company Chr. Hansen was ranked the most sustainable company in the world by media and research firm Corporate Knights. The ingredients supplier leverages the natural properties of good bacteria for use across a number of industries, including food, pharmaceuticals, and agriculture, which can help limit food waste, reduce the need for pesticides in farming, and increase yield. Besides encouraging sustainable practices in other industries, the ingredients supplier has integrated a sustainability message across its entire organisation. Chr. Hansen developed a system with accountancy firm Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC) to map its products against the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and document the impact that each of its products would have on the subgoals. ‘Initially, we weren’t sure how we would (document) it. It was a big task that took one year. However after that year, Chr. Hansen could say with certainty that 82% of its revenue supported certain UN goals.

‘One of the most crucial things (to do) is to set targets, because what you measure gets done. (It also ensures) that changes happen in the smaller sites, away from corporate headquarters. They simply have to have ownership of that target; otherwise (change) isn’t going to happen,” said Hansen’s head of sustainability, Annmarie Meisling.


Author: Flora Southey

Source: © 2019 - William Reed Business media Ltd.

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AuthorRay Dennis