Packaged foods delivering misleading health claims: survey

Some packaged foods carry misleading information about fruit and vegetable content on their packaging, Cancer Council NSW says.

Almost half (48 percent) of the packaged fruit and vegetable-based products surveyed by Cancer Council NSW made fruit and vegetable claims on the packaging, despite some having as little as 13 percent fruit content.

Co-author of the report and Nutrition Program Manager at Cancer Council NSW, Clare Hughes, said that as well as exploring fruit and/or vegetable content, the study also looked at the nutrient make-up of these products.

“What we found was that these products contained much less dietary fibre and much more energy, saturated fat, sugar and sodium than their fresh fruit or vegetable equivalent, making them a poor substitute for the real thing,” she said in a statement.

Currently, these foods do not have to meet Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code nutrient criteria to be able to carry these claims and so can appear, without regulation, on products which are nutritionally unhealthy.

Cancer Council NSW is urging the Australian government to strengthen the Food Standards Code which does not currently regulate fruit and vegetable claims on food labels.

“We need tighter regulation of products that may lead Australians to believe they are contributing positively to their recommended two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables per day, where instead they are consuming less fibre, and more energy, saturated fat, sugar and sodium,” said Hughes.

Roll Ups, made by Nestle, are a product which makes the claim "made with real fruit" on its packaging.

A Nestle spokeswoman told the Age that was not a health claim, but a content claim.

"Roll Ups contain concentrated puree from real fruit as clearly stated in the ingredient list on the back of the pack," she said.

"Roll Ups are a fun, portion-controlled treat."


New levy to help fight oyster mortality syndrome

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will allow Australian Seafood Industries (ASI) to collect a levy, in conjunction with hatcheries, on the purchase of Pacific oyster spat for up to 10 years.

The levy will enable ASI to undertake research into developing spat with resistance to the Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS).

According to the NSW Department of Primary Industries, POMS was first found in NSW in November 2010 when oyster farmers in the Georges River reported mortality of wild and farmed Pacific Oysters.

Then in February 2013 the virus that causes POMS was found in wild Pacific Oysters from Brisbane Water.

The levy will be collected from oyster growers who purchase Pacific oyster spat from hatcheries. The levy will commence at $2.80 per 1000 spat, indexed annually by CPI.

"An industry-wide levy is an efficient way to fund important research that seeks to protect Australian Pacific oyster growers from the potentially devastating impact of POMS," ACCC Commissioner Dr Jill Walker said in a statement.

POMS has also been found in in Pacific oysters in France, the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

It causes no harm to humans.


FSANZ to review raw cheese ban

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) is currently reviewing legislation surrounding the use of raw milk in soft cheese.

Under current legislation, most cheese must be made from pasteurised milk to ensure that harmful bacteria such as listeria and salmonella are killed, however many cheesemakers and chefs argue that pasteurisation compromises on the flavour of the final product.

Celebrity chef Pete Evans is highly supportive of a change to the legislation, arguing that other popular food items are far more dangerous than raw milk.

"Raw milk products like cheese, fresh cheese in particular if you make it at home, is far more dangerous than stuff you would buy in a shop or stuff you would make from pasteurised milk," Evans told ABC News.

"But it's much less dangerous than things like oysters or seafood, it's much less dangerous than chicken or eggs, and we don't stop people from buying raw oysters or buying raw eggs and trusting them to know what to do with it."

FSANZ has received a number of submissions on the proposed changes and is expected to hand down a final decision in December this year.

Submissions from both industry and consumers were called earlier in the year with FSANZ chief executive officer, Steve McCutcheon saying at the time that cheeses made with raw milk may be produced under the proposed legislation providing the “stringent requirements in the Code are met”.

“These include additional animal health, milking hygiene and temperature control requirements.

“Businesses would have to demonstrate to enforcement agencies that they are able to meet the requirements,” said McCutcheon.

Compulsory egg stamping introduced in NSW

Eggs produced in NSW must now be stamped with a unique identifying mark to improve traceability.

Minister Katrina Hodgkinson says that the measure has been put in place as part of a new national standard that is designed to reduce the impact of potential future food poisoning outbreaks.

Hodgkinson said that the industry has been widely compliant in adopting the new requirements as producers see the value in protecting their customers and improving traceability.

"Egg stamping will mean that the source of an outbreak will be more easily traced and contained," said Hodgkinson.

"Eggs are a leading source of Salmonella – between 2010 and 2014 in NSW there were 40 food poisoning outbreaks associated with eggs, affecting more than 700 people, with many requiring hospitalisation.”

In order to help smaller businesses comply with the new requirements, the NSW Liberals & Nationals Government has provided free stamps to small businesses producing less than 1000 eggs a day.

Hodgkinson’s notes that the state government has introduced a few exemptions for operators that produce less than 20 dozen eggs a week, and also for those that sell eggs direct from the farm gate.

“For the most part, from today people should only buy eggs that have the unique stamp on the shell,” she says.

"We recognise that there will be a transitional period where there may still be unstamped product in the market and the NSW Food Authority will be monitoring compliance with this requirement from 26 November.”

A recent study from the Australian National University found that while overall cases of foodborne illness has declined slightly, cases involving Salmonella and Campylobacter have increased.

Between 2000 and 2010, the number of foodborne illnesses fell by 17 percent, however the number of recorded Salmonella cases increased by 24 percent.


Canadean predicts five biggest trends within FMCGs

A new report from market research company Canadean has identified what it believes to be the best opportunities in consumer markets over the next five years.

Taking out the number one position and predicted to be worth US$1.71b by 2018 is that of ‘Magic Bullet Health Solutions’. These are inclusive of ingredients such as ‘superfoods’ that offer immediate health benefits such as disease prevention, weight management and nutritional boosts.

Coming in second at a predicted value of US$1.66b by 2018, is a focus on the Next Emerging Economies which offer opportunities for new product development and innovation.

“Companies have already seen the value in setting up innovation centres in emerging economies to help tailor their products to consumer needs,” Ronan Stafford, analyst at Canadean says.

“We increasingly see pack formats developed to keep costs low in emerging economies used to target austerity-minded consumers in Europe. Meanwhile, consumers are now highly aware of global culinary trends and want more experiential flavours. This means that Far Eastern and African flavours and ingredients are high in demand,” Stafford says. 

"The more big brands invest in targeting consumers in Lagos, Jakarta and Hanoi, the better they will meet the value and experience-seeking needs of consumers in New York, London, Madrid and Sydney."

The third trend revolves around “The Health Time Bomb” where society takes dramatic steps to reverse the effects of food related diseases such as obesity and type-two diabetes. This trend is expected to represent US$1.03b within the next five years.

Augmented Purchasing comes in at number four to represent US$838m by 2018, and the last trend, Trading on Trust is expected to represent US$427m with the five year period.

Stafford says that women aged 45 and over from low and middle income households in urban areas will be early adopters of innovation arising from companies investing in the next wave of emerging economies. “The low incomes of many early adopters in the next emerging economies means that manufacturers need to simplify formulations,” he says. “This includes strategies such as using fewer ingredients to lower costs or investing in lightweight packaging that is still robust enough to withstand poor quality supply chains.”

In addition to measuring the value of targeting early adopters in 2018, the report evaluates the likelihood and impact on business practices of each scenario. When all three dimensions are analysed, one scenario rises above the rest: The deep impact the next wave of emerging economies will have on consumer markets. “These opportunities in the next emerging economies need to be targeted now, or companies will lag behind their competitors on not just opening up new markets, but in better meeting the needs of their current customers,” says Stafford.


Top five trends to impact the food industry in 2015

From “From Clean to Clear Label” and “Convenience for Foodies”, here’s the top five trends likely to impact the food industry in 2015 and beyond.

Top food and beverage trends for 2015, as identified by Innova Market Insights:

  1. From Clean to Clear Label. Clean label claims are tracked on nearly a quarter of all food and beverage launches, with manufacturers increasingly highlighting the naturalness and origin of their products. With growing concerns over the lack of a definition of “natural,” however, there is a need for more clarity and specific details. Consumers, retailers, industry and regulators are all driving more transparency in labelling.
  2. Convenience for Foodies. Continued interest in home cooking has been driven by cooking shows on TV and by blogging foodies. It is seen as fashionable, fun and social, as well as healthy and cost-effective. It has driven demand for a greater choice of fresh foods, ingredients for cooking from scratch and a wider use of recipe suggestions by manufacturers and retailers.
  3. Marketing to Millennials. The so-called Millennial generation, generally aged between 15 and 35, now accounts for about one-third of the global population and is tech savvy and socially engaged. They are well informed, want to try something different and are generally less brand loyal than older consumers. They want to connect with products and brands and know the story behind them.
  4. Snacks Rise to the Occasion. Formal mealtimes are continuing to decline in popularity and growing numbers of foods and drinks are now considered to be snacks. Quick healthy foods are tending to replace traditional meal occasions and more snacks are targeted at specific moments of consumption, with different demand influences at different times of day.
  5. Good Fats, Good Carbs. With concerns over obesity there is a growing emphasis on unsaturated and natural fats and oils that has seen rising interest in omega 3 fatty acid content as well as the return of butter to favour as a natural, tasty alternative to artificial margarines that may be high in trans-fats. In the same way, naturally-occurring sugar is being favoured at the expense of added sugars and artificial sweeteners.

“The move from ‘clean’ to ‘clear’ labeling is a key trend for 2015, reflecting a move to clearer and simpler claims and packaging for maximum transparency,” said Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights. “Meeting the needs of the Millennial consumer has also become a key focus, as has targeting the demands of the gourmet consumer at home, re-engineering the snacks market for today’s lifestyles and combating obesity with a focus on positive nutrition.”


Consumer demand for antibacterial packaging on the rise

Increasing consumer concerns surrounding the development of germs in packaged food could open up further demand for antibacterial packaging, says Canadean.

According to a recent report from the market research company, over 50 percent of respondents are more concerned about bacteria on the outside of cans than the presence of dirt, dust or dents in the packaging.

The survey also revealed that in addition to concerns over the transportation and storage of grocery products, there is a growing concern about the presence of bacteria and germs on everyday items.

The research revealed that 55 percent of British respondents were either “concerned” or “very concerned” about germs on the outside of cans. Those aged 18-24 years were the least likely to view bacteria as an issue (49 percent) and those aged 55 and older the most (63 percent). Males are more likely to be worried about bacteria (57 percent) compared to females (53 percent).

In addition, consumers are more worried about the presence of bacteria on canned products than signs of dirt on packaging (42 percent), or dust on a can (32 percent). When it comes to the presentation of cans, consumers are still more worried about bacteria, but less about the deformation of a can (46 percent) or if a label is discoloured (48 percent).

“Consumers are becoming more conscious about the distribution and storage of grocery products and the implications this has on the safety and quality of food,” says Michael Hughes, lead analyst at Canadean.

“As such, there is a clear demand for products that have antibacterial packaging to help reassure consumers. This will be particularly true with products that are purchased on-the-go and from retailers that consumers are unfamiliar with and where they are less confident about the safety and quality of products.

“Given that older consumers are most worried about the presence of bacteria – which can be linked to a greater level of concern about immunity and maintaining health, the demand for antibacterial packaging will only intensify in the future as society continues to age.”


Entrepreneurs launch portable Halal test

Two French entrepreneurs have launched a portable ‘HalalTest’ that detects the presence of pork in food.

Jean-Francois Julien and Abderrahmane Chaoui first came up with the idea for the portable test (which is aptly named HalalTest) whilst at university, when Julien was in the midst of developing tests for people suffering from food intolerances and allergies, Reuters reports.

"Abderrahmane tells me 'you know, food allergies and food intolerance are very interesting of course but you should really diversify yourself in animal proteins'," Julien told Reuters. "That's when we got the idea to develop a specific anti-body for porcine DNA."

The test is somewhat similar in size to a pregnancy test, and comes with a small test tube where the food sample is mixed with warm water. A test strip is then inserted into the mixture, delivering a result within a two minute time frame.

HalalTest has been released under the pair’s company, Capital Biotech, and Julien and Chaoui say that no other test on the market allows the end user to analyse the food at as easily and cost effectively at their's. Julien and Chaoui state that the tests cost 6.9 euros per unit, and that they are 99 percent accurate.

The company had already received 10,000 pre-orders for the testing kit prior to its launch on Wednesday last week.

Julien and Abderrahmane, have also launched an alcohol test, and are in the process of developing several other tests for food intolerance sufferers.


Price of food and non-alcoholic beverages grows

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has revealed that over the September quarter, the price of food and non-alcoholic beverages has risen by 1.2 percent.

The ABS released the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures quarterly changes in the price of a ‘basket’ of goods and services.

Out of the 11 groups measured, the food and non-alcoholic beverages group experienced the most growth.

The CPI said the main contributor to the rise in the group for the September quarter 2014 was fruit (+14.7 percent). The rise was partially offset by a fall in bread (-3.0 percent).

Over the twelve months to the September quarter 2014, the food and non-alcoholic beverages group rose 3.5 percent. The main contributors to the rise were fruit (+19.2 percent), vegetables (+10.0 percent), restaurant meals (+2.2 percent) and takeaway and fast foods (+1.9 percent). The rise was partially offset by a fall in breakfast cereals (-6.0 percent).

In seasonally adjusted terms, the food and non-alcoholic beverages group rose 0.9 percent in the September quarter 2014. The main contributor to the rise was fruit (+9.3 percent).


Overall foodborne illness rates drop but Salmonella cases on the rise

New research from the Australian National University has found while overall cases of foodborne illness has declined slightly, cases involving Salmonella and Campylobacter have increased.

As part of the study, Associate Professor Martyn Kirk from the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health tracked changes in foodborne illness in Australia between 2000 and 2010.

Over the period, the number of foodborne illnesses fell by 17 percent, however the number of recorded Salmonella cases increased by 24 percent, and Campylobacter 13 percent – both of which were the two leading causes of hospitalisation.

“On average, each Australian has an episode of foodborne gastroenteritis once every five years,” said Kirk.

“Australian authorities have worked hard in the last decade to ensure a safe food supply, so it is disappointing not to see a decline in Salmonella and Campylobacter infections,” he said.

Kirk said that around one quarter of the 16 million cases of gastroenteritis experienced each year are caused by food contamination.

The Salmonella bacteria can be carried in undercooked chicken or eggs, while Campylobacter is commonly found in raw or undercooked poultry meat and raw milk. Interestingly, Kirk says that Salmonella and Campylobacter cases only accounted for five per cent of foodborne illness and that the microbiological cause of 80 percent of foodborne illnesses remained unknown.

“People often don’t find out the cause of their illness, either because they don’t visit a doctor, or they don’t have a test,” said Kirk.

The researchers also found an 85 per cent decline in cases of the Hepatitis A virus infection as a result of vaccination campaigns.

In March this year, The Victorian health department advised consumers to avoid eggs from the Victorian Green Eggs company which were thought to have been linked to a salmonella outbreak which saw more than 200 people affected after dining at restaurants in Torquay and St Kilda.

A month after the warning the issued, deputy chief health officer, Dr Michael Ackland lifted the warning and the company has since introduced an additional washing step to its egg production.

The research was funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health, Food Standards Australia New Zealand and the New South Wales Food Authority and has been published in the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.


Difficulty opening tinned food drives need for innovative packaging

A new study from market research company Canadean has found that one in five consumers consider tinned food to be difficult to open.

Canadean surveyed 2,000 British consumers in October 2014 about their attitudes to packaging in different food categories and of those surveyed, 22 percent of respondents find tinned food difficult to open. Young adults are the most frustrated when it comes to opening these products with 28 percent of 25 to 34 year olds saying that they find tinned food difficult to open. This compares to only 16 percent of over 55s.

“Consumers want instant convenience, particularly young adults looking for a quick lunch or dinner solution,” says senior analyst at Canadean, Ronan Stafford. “While there’s a minimal amount of time saved between opening a food can, and opening a bag or a pouch, young consumers simply don’t want the hassle of finding a tin opener or struggling with a ring pull.”

Stafford says that in addition to studying consumer perceptions of different packaging, Canadean also tracked the influence of different motivators when it comes to what consumers eat. In 2013, British consumers selected over £8 billion worth of food because it was the most convenient product.

“Consumers feel increasingly time-scarce and stressed, which makes 30 seconds saved in the kitchen a big deal. While food cans will remain a staple of supermarket shelves because of their low cost, I expect to see pouches and cartons grow in popularity as an easy to open alternative for office-workers and young families.”

A category that Stafford says is tipped to shift away from cans and into easy open packages is that of ambient fish. Stafford says that demand for pouches in this market will double from 8.7 million packs in 2013, to 15.1 million packs by 2018.

“While pouches’ market share will still be niche compared to the share held by food cans, their rapid growth shows how offering a more convenient pack format can revitalise sales among younger consumer groups,” he says.

“Brands such as Heinz and John West have led the way in developing new pack formats for tinned food, others will quickly follow.”


Food delivery robots mark new era for hospital catering

WA’s Fiona Stanley Hospital will be home to free-roaming food delivery robots along with cutting-edge cooking and fully traceable food safety protocols when its opens next week.

The hospital will feature 18 automated guided vehicles equipped with a combination of GPS, proximity sensors, wi-fi and powerful computing with the capability of delivering up to 2200 meals direct to wards each day. Furthermore, this is all completed without human intervention once the robot has left the hospital kitchen, The West reports.

According to Serco's soft services manager Breffni Doyle, (Serco being the patient catering service at the hospital) the robots have the ability to communicate with the hospital systems by wifi, enabling it to deliver food right across the campus. The technology is so sophisticated that the robots can even call for a lift to deliver food across numerous levels of the complex.  

Serco's head chef Steve Newson said that the robots will significantly improve efficiencies in the kitchen, in addition to providing a more enjoyable dining experience for patients.

"The technology means food is not held too long and the time between cooking and delivery is significantly reduced," said Newson.

"We want to make the dining experience as rich and enjoyable as possible. We buy in fresh vegetables, steaming them and chilling them ourselves. All our wet dishes are made on site from scratch."

Patients at Fiona Stanley Hospital will be able to order their meals via a patient entertainment system. Stage one of the hospital is due to open next week.


NZ recall after plastic found in sausages

New Zealand sausage maker Premier Beehive recalled four types of sausage from NZ shops after plastic was found in them by an Auckland consumer. reports that the affected products were various types of pork sausages. The pork arrived at the company’s plant in Carterton on the North Island, wrapped in plastic. Some of this remained stuck to the meat and was minced along with the meat.

"We immediately went into investigation mode once we received the complaint from the customer this week and I'm pleased to say we haven't had any more. We thought it was in the best interests of the customers and the brand," Premier Beehive Managing director John Kippenberger said.

He added that the affected products have been removed from shelves and the company hopes to have new products available in stores by Wednesday next week.

As the National Business Review reports, Premier Beehive has bought a property in Palmerston North which it intends to use as its national distribution centre.

It paid nearly $5 million for the 2.1 ha property, which was previously owned and operated by Foodstuffs. It includes a large cold store building.