Latest in an occasional series of articles by Elaine Attwood about food issues affecting consumers.

Sweetener under fire: Germany questions safety of heated sucralose

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has raised concerns over the stability of sucralose when heated to high temperatures, and the potential for resulting health risks. Sucralose is a zero – calorie artificial sweetener. The sugar substitute has been approved as food additive E955 in the EU since 2004, and can be found in sweet beverages, condiments, chewing gum and baked goods. According to BfR’s findings, when sucralose was heated to temperatures of approximately 120°C to 250°C – during both the industrial production and processing of foods; and by consumers when cooking or baking foods at home – the artificial sweetener became dechlorinated. This, the BfR said, could possibly lead to the generation of chlorinated organic compounds with potential health risk for consumers.

The findings however are not conclusive. According to the International Sweeteners Association (ISA), has similarly highlighted to members that the fR’s findings were “non-–conclusive”. Whereas the ISA and the Calorie Control Council, among others, stand by the European Food Safety Association (EFSA’s) assessment of sucralose – which authorised the sweetener for use in the EU in 2004 – BfR has recommended consumers hold out for conclusive findings. “Until a conclusive risk assessment is possible, the BfR advises consumers and food producers not to heat foods containing sucralose to temperatures reached during baking, deep frying and roasting or only to add sucralose after the foods have been heated.”


Author:  Flora Southey

Credit:   © 2019 - William Reed Business Media Ltd.

 (Note: Sucralose is approved for use in Australia)

 Alcohol does the most damage to Australians, but we won’t stop drinking

Australia’s heaviest drinkers account for a staggering amount of the nation’s alcohol consumption, research shows. Some academics say that powerful lobby groups are working hard behind closed doors to make sure that we keep drinking it. It comes as a new study from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare revealed alcohol was the number one drug causing Australians to seek professional help in 2017–18. According to the report, the four most common drugs that led Australians to ask for help were alcohol (34%), amphetamines or “ice” (25%), cannabis (21%) and heroin (5%). Dr David Caldicott, Australian National University lecturer and emergency consultant said, “Alcohol was the most harmful drug by a country mile – it just happens to be legal. Alcohol has more impact on emergency departments … Australian political parties continue to accept big money from the alcohol industry lobby group to ensure that we keep drinking.” Data sourced from the Australian Electoral Commission’s political donation records show alcohol industry lobby groups paid political parties more than $1.8 million in donations in 2017–18. Deakin University violence prevention Professor Peter Miller, said these lobby groups have “long–term, well -developed strategies aimed at engaging and grooming politicians”. “We know that 75% of all alcohol sales in Australia come from 20% of consumers.


Credit:  News National 10.07pm, May 3, 2019

 “Misguided” criticism: Australian industry hits back at calls to make on–pack Health Star Rating System mandatory

The food and beverage industry in Australia is at odds with local health and consumer groups over calls by the latter to make usage of the Health Stars Rating (HSR) System by food firms mandatory. The debate was reignited over the recently–published draft of the “Health Star Rating System Five Year Review Report” by consultancy firm MP Consulting, which was set to recommend that the HSR System continued as a “volunteering front –of–pack label (FoPL)  scheme”. However the draft was published ahead of the deadline for accepting public comment, and various consumer and health groups responded by preparing comments opposing this. Amongst these, consumer organisation Choice said that: ‘Without HSRs being displayed on the majority of products, no amount of consumer education will help overcome the challenges that consumers face when comparing products with inconsistent labelling.”

The HSR Five Year Review was commissioned by the Australian government to “examine the impact of the System, the extent to which the objectives of the System have been met and to identify how the System could be improved’. The report acknowledged that the System was not without its flaws, and recommended a series of improvements. Amongst these was to make adjustments to the HSR Calculator to better reflect current dietary guidelines. The authors anticipated that this move would see decreases to the HSRs of approximately 8% of products (mostly discretionary/junk foods) and increases to the HSRs of approximately 15% of products (e.g. fruits and vegetables).


Author:  Pearly Neo

Credit:  © 2019 - William Reed Business Media Ltd

 Obesity campaigners demanded ban of cartoon characters on food and drink packets

 Campaigners in the UK are calling for a government ban on cartoon animations on packets that market unhealthy products to children and compulsory “traffic light nutrition labelling after a survey discovered that half of over 500 food and drink products which use cartoon animations on the packaging to appeal to children were ’unnecessarily” high in fat, saturated fat, sugar and/or salt. The campaigners claimed that manufacturers and retailers were “deliberately manipulating children and parents into purchasing “dangerously” unhealthy products, which can encourage pester power and excessive consumption”.

Sonia Pombo, Campaign Lead at Action on Salt based at Queen Mary University of London, said: “Parents want to make healthy choices for their children, but companies are not making this easy for them. The food industry has a moral duty to stop putting profits first and sell their products responsibly. There is plenty of opportunity for companies to either reformulate and make their products healthier, or make their already healthier products more appealing to children. Until then, the government must intervene and ensure all food and drink manufacturers at least display “traffic light” labelling so parents can see, at a glance, what is in the food.

 But the Food & Drink Federation hit back, claiming that the campaigners’ “headline-seeking measures” would not help address the UK’s obesity crisis.


Author: Oliver Morrison

Credit:  © 2019 - William Reed Business Media Ltd

 Note:  For full text of the above articles please see the references.

AuthorRay Dennis