FSANZ detects ‘potentially concerning’ amounts of phthalates in food from packaging

Food Standards Australia New Zealand has found worrying levels of plastic softeners in samples of popular foods.

Fresh bread, takeaway hamburgers and meat pizzas are some of the foods in which chemicals may have migrated from packaging into food are a low risk to public health and safety.

Out of the six takeaway hamburgers tested for the phthalate DEHP, four contained between 67 and 180 per cent more than the amount permitted under European Union laws to be released from packaging into food, which is 1.5 milligrams a kilogram.

In samples tested for the phthalate DINP, Food Standards found a takeaway hamburger sample had 14mg a kilo and a pizza topped with meat and vegetables had 16mg a kilo –both exceeding “tolerable daily intake” levels.

According to Food Standards chief executive Steve McCutcheon, the Australian Total Diet Study into chemical migration from packaging into food detected very low residues of some chemicals in a small number of samples.

“After undertaking a very conservative safety assessment on these very low levels, FSANZ has concluded there are no safety concerns,” McCutcheon said.

“The screening study identified that further work was required for two of the chemicals tested for [phthalates] and FSANZ will be sampling a wider range of foods for these chemicals so a full dietary exposure assessment can be undertaken.”

Phthalates are plasticisers that can be found in PVC tubing, gaskets, cling wraps, printing inks, paper and cardboard packaging and laminated aluminium foil.

A University of Michigan study published in the medical journal JAMA Paediatrics found increased levels of some phthalates in urine during pregnancy correlated with higher odds of premature birth.

Catherine Itman, a research lecturer in physiology at the University of the Sunshine Coast, said Food Standards' results were "potentially concerning", considering the conclusions of various animal studies.

"However, we must recognise firstly that we are exposed to phthalates from many different sources, so it must be considered whether the phthalates present in some foods do substantially contribute to our overall phthalate exposure," Itman said.

"Secondly, we actually have very little direct information about the human health impacts of phthalates, as most toxicology studies have been performed using concentrations that do not reflect typical exposure levels and our knowledge of the effects of exposure to combinations of phthalates or phthalates plus other chemicals is wholly inadequate," Itman said.

"Until more is known, we should be cautious with regard to how much phthalate exposure we consider to be acceptable."

NZ government objects to Australia’s new country of origin food labels

New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Industries has said it is concerned about the cost for the nation’s food producers to comply with Australia’s new proposed country of origin labelling laws.

Announced in July 2015, the proposed laws will require food sold in Australia to include a labelling statement identifying where the food comes from.

Supporter of the labelling reforms, Australian Federal Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce has however said that New Zealand has nothing to worry about.

The labelling changes are currently being considered by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) with its members (which includes New Zealand) allowed to provide feedback on the possible changes up until 5th February 2016.

The general Australian public have until the 29th January 2016 to submit their opinions to the Country of Origin Labelling Taskforce.

New Zealand previously exempted itself from Standard 1.2.11 in the Australia-New Zealnd Food Standards Code that required mandatory labelling of country of origin information in Australia.

Other criticisms of labelling changes

Australia’s consumer advocacy group CHOICE and the horticulture growers representative body, AUSVEG are each amongst the organisations that welcomed the new labels with reservations when they were announced in July 2015.

At the time of the announcement, these groups said that consumers will not really know where ingredients come from, since it will only be optional to list the actual country of origin for many important ingredients that come from outside Australia.

Country of Origin Labelling changes overview

The amendments to Australian Country of Origin Labelling include the following:

  • The introduction of a new Information Standard, requiring businesses to provide clearer information about the origin of food;
  • Removal of the Food Standards Code country of origin standard (Standard 1.2.11);
  • Changes under the Australian Consumer Law to be better aligned with the new Information Standard; and
  • Changes to the Commerce Regulations country of origin marking provisions –similarly to better align with the new Information Standard and the revised Australian Consumer Law. 

Babich unveils most exclusive wine to celebrate 2016 centenary

Babich Wines, one of New Zealand’s longest surviving, family owned wine brands, has produced the most exclusive wine in its history to celebrate its upcoming 100 year anniversary. 

100 magnums and 330 standard bottles of special edition 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon are available for a limited time.

The wine comes in a highly designed box with a certificate personally signed by Managing Director, Joe Babich adding to its authenticity and uniqueness. Each bottle has an ultra-high end cork and is hand waxed.

“We needed a very special wine to celebrate 100 years of family winemaking. Therefore when 2013 proved to be such an incredible vintage, and the Cabernet Sauvignon from our Gimblett Rd vineyard was so outstanding, it was decided to put a small parcel of these grapes aside,” Babich said

“Our viticulturist identified the best rows and then hand-picked fruit was crafted into a small volume of exceptional wine – aged for 18 months in two barriques of French oak.”

Senior Winemaker, Adam Hazeldine describes the wine as: “Sweetly perfumed with violet and blackberry.  Hints of vanilla and smokey cedar join also to create a warm and embracing aroma. Sweet floral and dark fruit elements continue on the exceptionally smooth and dense palate."

"Complex flavours reminiscent of fruit cake, cocoa, leather and tobacco all combine in an harmonious wine that is both serious and beguiling," Hazeldine said. 

Given the limited number of bottles produced, there is a strict allocation of this wine. This is the most exclusive wine Babich has ever produced. Only 100 Magnums (1500 ml) were produced and 330 (750 ml) bottles.

Malaysia consumes 1.9 million glasses of NZ milk every day

More and more Malaysians are looking to Fonterra dairy to meet their daily nutrition needs with local consumers enjoying the equivalent of 1.9 million glasses of Fonterra branded dairy products every day. 

 This includes Fonterra consumer branded and foodservice products, sold in Malaysia under the Anchor, Fernleaf, Anlene, Anmum, Mainland and CalciYum brands. Fonterra also sells dairy ingredients to food and beverage manufacturers in the country.  
Fonterra Brands Malaysia Managing Director Jose Miguel Porraz-Lando said Malaysians are consuming more dairy than ever before and Fonterra is well placed to meet this growing demand.
“Fonterra has been supplying high-quality dairy nutrition to Malaysians for generations and today we’ve got market leading brands across the dairy category. Anlene is the number one high calcium milk product in Malaysia, Anmum Materna is the leading maternal milk brand and we’re market leaders across the foodservice category.”
Mr Porraz-Lando added that Fonterra’s two Malaysia-based manufacturing facilities have the capacity to process 10,000 metric tonnes of New Zealand dairy products each year.
“We make these New Zealand dairy ingredients into a range of consumer-branded products that are consumed locally in Malaysia and exported to markets across South East Asia and the Middle East.
“The region’s fast-growing population is becoming increasingly wealthy driving dairy demand growth across the region. This presents an exciting opportunity for Fonterra and we’re helping to capitalise on this opportunity through our Malaysia operations,” said Mr Porraz-Lando.

Fonterra maintains milk price despite China slowdown

Fonterra Co-operative Group has said it has maintained a forecast Farmgate Milk Price of $4.60 per kgMS. Along with the November announced estimated Earnings Per Share range of 45-55 cents, this amounts to a total available for payout of $5.05-$5.15 kgMS and would currently equate to a total forecast Cash Payout of $4.95-$5.00.

 Chairman John Wilson said the stable forecast reflected the Board and management’s view that international prices would continue to improve in the first half of next year.  

“While there are signs of a recovery, particularly in China, we still need the imbalance between supply and demand to correct.”

“That imbalance is starting to reduce with year to date production in the United States up by only one per cent and slowing, and New Zealand volumes expected to be down by at least six per cent over the current season. In the EU, however, farmers are continuing to push production, currently up one per cent.”

“We will provide some $390 million in support to around 75 per cent of our farmers through the most productive half of the season, including the peak."

Farms typically produce 60 per cent of their milk in the first half, with production beginning to taper off from December, so we have provided support when it is needed the most,” Wilson said.

Fonterra officially opens new ‘green’ milk powder plant

Fonterra has officially commissioned its brand new high-efficiency plant in Pahiatua, which is now producing milk powder destined for more than 20 markets worldwide.

 The plant came online in August this year and has already produced more than 30,000 metric tonnes of high-quality whole milk powder destined for key markets including Sri Lanka and Algeria.
Minister for Primary Industries Hon Nathan Guy joined local farmers and community members to officially open the new plant.
Fonterra Chairman John Wilson said the new $NZ235 million high-efficiency dryer is one project in a $NZ2.4 billion investment program to accommodate milk growth and allows the Co-operative to make the most out of its lower North Island farmers’ milk.
“This new plant will help us process large volumes of milk in a way that delivers the most value to our farmers and will also help us meet the growing global demand for dairy nutrition.
“Last year, milk production in this region was up 4.3 per cent on the previous year and we expect volumes to increase in the future.”
Around 3000 people worked over 800,000 hours to finish the project, which was completed ahead of schedule and under budget.
Fonterra Managing Director Global Operations Robert Spurway said the commissioning of the plant was one of the Co-operative’s smoothest and most efficient.
“The team produced some of the best commissioning figures we’ve ever seen and the plant has been operating well above budgeted performance.
“The new dryer was a valuable addition to our asset base ahead of this season’s peak, providing more capacity which allows us to drive greater efficiency and value in our product mix.”
Along with the new plant, the site has added new infrastructure that allows it to manage additional milk volumes.
This includes a new wastewater treatment plant, a reverse osmosis plant that allows the site to reuse its own condensate, a new gas-fired boiler with a number of heat recovery systems and a new distribution centre that’s the size of three rugby fields.
“It’s this supporting infrastructure that is helping to reduce our environmental impact while also making the dryer one of the most efficient in the world,” said Spurway.

Hexagon Holdings to acquire Hally Group

Trans-Tasman label converter Hally Group, with subsidiaries Hally Labels (Brisbane, Christchurch, Auckland), AC Labels (Sydney) and Mark-It Labels (Christchurch), is being acquired by Hexagon Holdings.

The acquisition is for 100 per cent of the shares of Hally Group.

The Hally Group, established in 1965, has built significant market positions in fresh food, beverage, manufacturing, shelf stable food, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals & horticulture. Hally businesses operate from five sites, employing 235 staff.

Hexagon Holdings currently owns three New Zealand label businesses – Rapid Labels, Panprint & Kiwi Labels. Key markets include wine, thermal, FMCG, laser & pharmacy. Hexagon currently operates from three sites, employing 145 staff.

There are no plans to merge any Hally and Hexagon subsidiaries, the businesses will continue to trade independently and competitively, according to the press release.

Grant Hally, Chairman of the Hally Group, said it was the end of an era, with the business being established by Grant’s parents Ian & Pam Hally. 

“It has been a wonderful 50-year chapter for our family. We’re pleased to see the businesses joining a group of established and successful industry participants”.
Clark Perkins, Director of Hexagon said.

“Hally, AC & Mark-It are impressive and professional businesses, with a deep understanding of the label sector. Hexagon and Hally are highly complementary, and we are excited about the growth prospects of the expanded group”.

Hexagon Holdings, owned by Mercury Capital & Tom Sturgess, is headquartered in Auckland. Post completion, Hexagon will have combined annual sales of NZ$120m.

First cheese rolls off the line at Fonterra’s Eltham plant

The expansion of Fonterra’s Eltham site has reached a key milestone, with the first individually wrapped slices of cheese now coming off its new production line destined for supermarket shelves around the globe. 

The new line is part of a $AUD32 million project to bolster the site’s cheese capability, doubling the amount of the world-renowned sliced cheese that can be produced at the Taranaki-based site.
Director of New Zealand Manufacturing, Mark Leslie says Fonterra is constantly looking at trends in key markets and working with customers to help meet their growth with investment.
“One of the most exciting things about our consumer and foodservice expansions is they’re almost entirely demand-led, meaning from the moment the first product comes off the line it’s already earmarked for customers in one of more than 100 markets around the world,” he said.
Leslie says these expansions also diversify the Co-operative’s asset mix, giving Fonterra more choices in what it does with farmers’ milk and allowing more agility in meeting changes in customer demand.
Sliced cheese made at Eltham comprises both individually wrapped slices and slice-on-slice cheese that is used in restaurants and fast food outlets, and is one of the Co-operative’s most in-demand consumer and foodservice products.
“It’s a product that really supports our V3 strategy, to deliver a greater volume of high value products, at velocity,” said Leslie. 
“Once completed, we’ll be able to make around 2.3 billion slices of cheese each year out of Eltham, all of it sold into growth markets in Australasia, Asia and the Middle East.”
Site Manager Brendon Birss said the team is excited to reach such an important milestone in the project.
“A lot of work has gone into completing the first phase of the expansion. Local builders and contractors have pulled out all the stops to get us up and running on schedule, and we’ve seen great results from the new lines in testing over the last few weeks,” said Birss.
The second stage of the expansion is due for completion in February next year with the new sliced cheese line closing out the project.

Babich wines celebrate 100 years of winemaking

This month, Babich Wines, one of the pioneers of New Zealand winemaking, will be dusting off the archives and sharing its family stories to celebrate the company’s centenary in 2016.

Babich will be posting 100 stories on babichwines.co.nz, meaning anyone with an internet connection will be able to learn about the family’s trials and tribulations. They will also be sharing rare images, including shots of the original vineyards and the tools they used.

“We wanted to throw the doors open and share the most intimate and interesting parts of our history,” explains Joe Babich, Managing Director and second-generation winemaker. 

“Our family’s story is one of passion, grit and hard work; caring for the earth and the vines; and at the end of the day, creating wines that represent excellence through experience. We’re excited to celebrate that and to share our success with wine lovers both here in New Zealand and around the world.”

New stories will be added to the website each month, kicking off with 26 in September. They touch on a range of emotions. Some reflect the struggles endured by the founder, Josip Babich, in the 1900s, while others show how pure hard work and innovation has ensured its century long success. Scattered among the stories are tales that will have readers laughing out loud.

Founder, Josip Babich, produced and bottled his first wine in 1916 at just 20 years old. According to Joe, he was an honest businessman, whose approach to winemaking was built on integrity, hard work and delivering quality and value to the customer.

“Can you imagine today, what it would mean for a 14-year-old boy to leave his parents and join his brothers to earn a living on the other side of the world? This journey was the humble beginnings for Josip, whose honest hard work and determination set the way for generations to come,” says Joe. 

“His traditional values still guide the business today, nearly 100 years on – and of that, we are immensely proud.”

Farmers can now milk Fonterra for funds

Fonterra farmers can now apply for Fonterra Co-operative Support, a loan to help them deal with the current challenging conditions. 

According to the dairy company, these challenging conditions include the low forecast Farmgate Milk Price for next season, which is currently set at $3.85 kgMS.

This is the first time the Co-op has leveraged its strength to provide support to its farmers at such a significant level, a Fonterra spokesperson noted.

Chairman John Wilson said Fonterra is well placed to help its farmers because of the Co-operative’s underlying strength.

“Being able to help our farmers is all about standing together as a Co-operative and using our collective strength to get through these tough times,” said Mr. Wilson. 
Farmer shareholders can apply for an interest-free loan of 50 cents for every kilogram of share-backed milk solids produced from 1 June to 31 December 2015. The loan will be interest-free until 31 May 2017, after which Fonterra may charge interest.

Farmers can repay all or part of the loan at any time and no security is required over their shares or any other assets. The loan will be repayable directly from milk payments, and automatic repayments will occur when Total Advance Rate Payments exceed $6.00.

Applications open today and close on 25 September 2015. Farmers can apply online (the preferred option) at nzfarmsource.co.nz, or by email, fax or post.


Grass-Fed infant formula to launch in China and US

New Zealand dairy processing company, Synlait has partnered with US baby product manufacturer, Munchkin, to launch a Grass Fed branded retail ready infant formula in the US and China.

The raw milk used to manufacture the infant formula will require cows to be exclusively grazed on a pasture and crop based diet, with no feeding of grain, or feed not grown in New Zealand. Farmers will be independently audited to ensure they meet, and maintain the standard.

Synlait suppliers who choose to follow the new standard will be paid a premium for their milk.

Synlait Managing Director Dr John Penno said the company’s “focus is on ensuring we continue to provide our milk suppliers with opportunities to earn more for their milk, over and above the base milk price.”

The product, to be exclusively manufactured by Synlait will reduce reliance on the Chinese market.

“We are cognisant of ensuring our infant formula business does not become overly reliant on the China market, and so Munchkin, with its focus on the United States market, is a potentially important addition to our growing portfolio of retail-ready infant formula customers,” Penno said.


Fonterra doubles mozzarella production

Work is complete on a new mozzarella plant at Fonterra’s Clandeboye site in New Zealand, doubling production and creating enough mozzarella to top more than 300 million pizzas a year.

The mozzarella produced is destined for global pizza and pasta restaurant chains across China, Asia and the Middle East.

Fonterra Managing Director of Global Operations Robert Spurway said the Co-operative has seen growth in consumer and foodservice categories and this expansion will form a key part of that success in the future.

“The expansion at Clandeboye is a great example of our V3 strategy in action,” Spurway said.

“Foodservice products such as cheese give a high value on return and, thanks to our strength in research and development, we’re able to cut months off the production time of this mozzarella to deliver on our velocity proposition. The additional capacity will bring volume to that equation.”

The expansion is part of Fonterra’s wider strategy to build on strength in foodservice, along with the doubling of cream cheese production at Te Rapa, the recent commissioning of the Waitoa UHT site and plans to expand slice-on-slice cheese capacity at Eltham.

Clandeboye Site Manager Steve McKnight says the site will begin 24 hour production, with farmers supplying winter milk to help meet global demand for individual quick frozen grated mozzarella.

“We’re seeing the popularity of cheese really take off in Asia, so the timing of this upgrade couldn’t be better. To meet orders from that market, we will be producing cheese 24 hours a day, making use of our new lines and taking winter milk from our farmers in Canterbury, Southland and Otago,” McKnight said.

The site expansion has brought 25 new roles. Staff have finished training and are now working in the new mozzarella plant.