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Curtin University
Centre of Excellence for Science, Seafood and Health

New food security report for UK: report the same issues facing Australia

By Alexandra McManus 23 January 2015 News No Comments »

The House of Commons in the UK have just released a report entitled ‘Food security: demand, consumption and waste.

This report focusses on consumer demand, nutrition and sustainability. One of the key areas addressed is the need for clear, user-friendly food labels to help consumers make healthier, more nutritious food choices. There is a recommendation for standardised food labelling that allow quick and accurate decisions to be made around provenance, sustainability and nutrition. Read more…

Health groups want Health Star Ratings to be compulsory

By Alexandra McManus 21 January 2015 News No Comments »

The front-of-pack Health Star Rating (HSR) food labelling system is currently voluntary, at least for the next 2 years anyway. Well as many predicted, health groups are calling for the Health Star Rating on front of food labels to be made compulsory now.

Sure it would be much easier to compare if we could see a standardised measure on the front of all food labels IF these were based on evidence and have been rigorously evaluated.  The aim of the HSR is to reduce overweight and obesity by helping consumers to make healthier choices. Herein lies the rub, the HSR has not been fully evaluated yet! Don’t we want to know if it actually does help people to make healthier choices before we decide to make it compulsory?

Inclusion of HSR on food labels for Small to Medium Enterprises could be extremely expensive, particularly if they have long life products and the time to comply is reduced. What about stick-on-labels I hear you say? I say, price them and you may have some understanding of the problems that a local company like Sticky Fingers Gourmet Foods could face.

Reducing overweight and obesity rates are vital to the current and future health of our nation. There is no argument. I am all for supporting interventions that work. I think the HSR could be one of these, however it could easily go the way of so many other promising initiatives if it is not evaluated effectively. This should be a priority whether nor not it becomes compulsory.

I hope sense prevails and we take the time to effectively and rigorously evaluate the HSR food labelling system before making a decision about making them compulsory. It is just basic, good science.

If we want our children to live at least as long was their parents (and grandparents), we need to act now  BUT  that action needs to be well measured, tested and effective. So whilst a food labelling system will not halt the obesogenic pandemic we are facing now, it could be very valuable as part of a multidisciplinary approach to tackling this very complex issue. So lets try to give the HSR, a really promising strategy, the best chance of working.



Helping consumers find your product

By Alexandra McManus 19 January 2015 News No Comments »

We are always looking for new ways to engage consumers and preempt their needs. A really interesting TedX Talk by Ray Burke provides some insights into how consumers shop and uses examples of how small changes have dramatically increased sales.;search%3Atag%3A%22ep1412%22



Traceability – an invisible microscopic barcode being trialled

By Alexandra McManus 16 January 2015 News No Comments »

Traceability of our food is a topical issue across the world.  A new microscopic sugar based, non living, non-viable, plant-based DNA molecule is being trialled in the USA. This ‘invisible barcode’ can be sprayed onto food at any point along the supply chain. It is currently being used to aid food recall of contaminated foods and to detect product substitution. The inventors say it is easy to lift off any product.

It can also be used on fresh produce with the example given of lifting the ‘barcode’ off a tainted apple and tracing it back to the orchard where it was grown. The makers also say the ‘barcode’ can be placed on olives before they are pressed and still traceable when bottled and on the supermarket shelf.

It is reported safe to humans in pilot trials. Hope it proves safe, user-friendly and cost effective in the large courtly-wide trials proposed.


Serving sizes – should they stay or go?

By Alexandra McManus 16 January 2015 News No Comments »

There is a call from manufacturers to drop serving sizes from food labels. Surely not. Don’t we need these to make a quick calculation about how much of a product we should be eating in one sitting? Aren’t these based on the serving sizes in the Dietary Guidelines for Australians?  HEREIN LIES THE RUB!

I recently completed a guide to help  small to medium enterprises navigate the Food Standards Code. It was eye opening.

The serving sizes on food labels are not prescribed within the Food Standards Code nor are they based on dietary guidelines. In Australia, is up to food manufacturers to set their own serving sizes.

The Food Standards Code makes the following suggestions to assist food businesses to determine serving sizes.

Serving sizes specified by the food business should reflect a realistic portion of the food that a person might normally consume on one eating occasion. Other legislation may be applicable in this case, including that the serving size should not be false, misleading or deceptive, or likely to mislead or deceive. 

So many people use serving sizes as a quick and easy guide, thinking they are based on our dietary guidelines or at least have a strong evidence base.

There is an opportunity to make a submission to Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) about whether nor not serving sizes should remain on food labels. I am in two minds. On one hand I like to know how many (suggested) serves are in a product. On the other hand, if these serving sizes are not based on evidence, are chosen by the food manufacturer and are largely unregulated, what is their worth?

My submission will focus on maintaining serving sizes but adding regulation so they have some independent credibility to them. There should also be serving sizes for children and adults. If FSANZ is not willing to add evidence-based criteria to the development of serving sizes we may as well get rid of them and stick with the per 100gm/mL on packaging. At least that is standardised, regulated and enforced (mmm – don’t get me started on enforcement – a topic for another day perhaps).

Submission close 13 February 2015.

Changes to food labels – have your say before 15 Feb 2015

By Alexandra McManus 19 December 2014 News No Comments »

Food Standards Australia is considering changing a number of the Standards. They include simplfying the Nutritional Information Panel (NIP) required on the back of packaging, making the process to establish nutritional and health claims more streamlined, and cracking down on food safety measures. Gluten free claims are also being considered. 


Health Star Rating – education campaign

By Alexandra McManus 8 December 2014 News No Comments »

The HSR website is now open for business. The education campaign began on 6th December. Check out the website – lots of info, support docs and ‘how to’ guides.

From the Aussie Farmer direct to you – what a great idea

By Alexandra McManus 5 December 2014 News No Comments »

What a great idea – Australian produce direct from the farmer to your door. The potted history of how Aussie Farmers Direct grew from one supplier to more than 170 makes interesting reading.

Their edge?   1) They lead with personal stories  2) their customer ‘front of mind’ – so easy to choose and order 3) supporting local farmers 40 100% money back/ replacement guarantee 6) it includes seafood -yeah Read more…

National Seafood Industry Leadership Program open

By Alexandra McManus 28 November 2014 News No Comments »

Are you passionate about the long term sustainability of the Australian seafood industry? Do you want to find a better way to harness your energies into a career with long term prospects? I would strongly suggest you consider taking part on the 2015 National Seafood Industry Leadership Program. This is a great initiative by the Australian Government. I have been to several of the final presentations by graduates and have been blown away by their innovation, commitment and drive to make the Australian seafood industry a career of choice. Applications close on 19th December so apply now!.

Changes to US and EU export requirements

By Alexandra McManus 10 November 2014 News No Comments »

Last week the Australian Department of Agriculture advised regulatory changes affecting companies who export food and beverage to the US and EU. For details contact:

US – Market access -registration of food facilitates and associated fees.

EU – Changes to labelling, presentation and advertising.


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