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Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

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Seafood Country of Origin Labelling: prospects of future reform?

Country of origin labelling (CoOL) of food (including seafood) is an issue that has attracted concern and controversy over many years. The Government’s new country of origin labelling requirements take effect on 1 July 2016, but do not address concerns about the exemption of seafood sold for immediate consumption by restaurants, cafes and other food vendors from mandatory CoOL requirements.   A number of reviews into food labelling have examined that issue. The Blewett Review in 2011 recommended against extending CoOL to foods sold in restaurants. However, a 2014 inquiry by the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee (the Senate Inquiry) into the labe... Read more...

On the pulse ‐ 2016 United Nations International Year of the Pulse

Few might know, but the United Nations has declared 2016 the International Year of the Pulse. What of it, you ask. And what is a pulse anyway?   The (food‐related) term ‘pulse’ is used to describe the seeds of legumes. They include lentils, chickpeas, faba beans, broad beans, field peas and lupins. They are a traditional dietary staple in many parts of the world, and the main reason for the UN’s declaration is to highlight this food group’s potential ability to address global health, nutrition, food security and sustainability issues. Increases in production and consumption of pulses could provide a low cost source of nutrient‐ dense food for people in many parts... Read more...

ACT bans battery cages and sow stalls

On 25 February 2014 the Animal Welfare (Factory Farming) Amendment Bill 2013 was passed by the ACT Legislative Assembly. The Bill is noteworthy as it is the first time that certain intensive farming practices – specifically the use of battery cages in egg production and the use of sow stalls and gestational crates for pigs — will be banned in any Australian jurisdiction. (Although the Tasmanian Government had, in May 2012, announced its intention to phase out battery cages and ‘fast track’ a planned ban on sow stalls, no legislation has been introduced to implement the proposed changes.) The Bill, which will also ban beak trimming of chickens (sometimes referred to as... Read more...

The National Food Plan: food policy or something else?

The Australian Government released the National Food Plan White Paper (the Paper) on 25 May 2013. At the time the then Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry said ‘For the first time, Australia’s food businesses and consumers have a road map for the future…’ The Paper, however, is not about food for Australians; it has minimal focus on what Australians eat, or food processing in Australia. It is more an export plan, particularly for Australian producers.What’s in the National Food Plan White Paper?In 2010 the Government said the National Food Plan would better integrate food policy by looking at the food supply chain from paddock to plate.The Paper makes 16 recommendations for food... Read more...

Food Allergy Week 2013

This week (13–19 May 2013) is national Food Allergy Week, organised by Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia (A&AA), a non-profit allergy advocacy and support group now in its 20th year. Reflecting what is sometimes referred to as the ‘allergy epidemic’, Australia has one of the highest reported rates of food allergy in the world. Current research suggests that one in ten 12 month old infants in Australia has a food allergy, and according to A&AA, ‘life threatening allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) in children aged under five years old have increased five-fold over the last 10 years in Australia’. There are nine foods known to be responsible for 90% of food allergic reactions, with a... Read more...

Good food=Good health: making it add up

A healthy diet is fundamental to good health, acknowledges the latest Australian Dietary Guidelines prepared by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) this week. Based on a stringent review of over 55,000 scientific publications, the guidelines update and strengthen the evidence from the previous 2003 dietary guidelines. Primarily aimed at health professionals, the key recommendations of the guidelines are:Eat a variety of nutritious foods from the 5 key food groups (vegetables, fruit, grains, lean meats and nuts, low-fat dairy) to meet your energy needsLimit intake of foods containing saturated fat, added salt, added sugars and alcoholEncourage and support breastfeedingPre... Read more...

Food labelling logic- what really is the most logical approach?

Since the Government rejected the introduction of a traffic light food labelling system, public health advocates and industry representatives have been arguing about what method of food labelling would best assist consumers in making better choices. Traffic light labelling uses green, amber and red to show the relative levels of fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt in a product. Yet the idea of a ‘star rating system’ may lead to a breakthrough in the debate.With 3 in 5 Australian adults either overweight or obese (and 1 in 4 Australian children), the idea of a front of pack labelling system on food is currently being promoted by experts as one of best ways to address obesity.... Read more...

Raising awareness on palm oil

On 23 June 2011, the Coalition joined with the Greens and the independent Senator Nick Xenophon to ensure the Senate passed the Food Standards Amendment (Truth in Labelling—Palm Oil) Bill 2011 (the private members’ Bill has yet to be introduced into the House of Representatives). There are two main issues identified with palm oil: the environmental effects of plantations (including loss of tropical rainforest), and the health effects of palm oil versus other vegetable oils. Palm oil is a product of the oil palm tree, which grows only in tropical climates. Highly versatile, palm oil is widely used in the manufacture of food products, cosmetics, detergents and bio-fuel. Increasing demand for t... Read more...

Marketing obesity

Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. In 2010, world-wide there were an estimated 42 million children under five years old who were overweight, and this figure is increasing at an alarming rate.Children who are overweight or obese are likely to grow into obese adults who risk developing a number of chronic non‐communicable ailments, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. As these diseases add billions in health costs to national economies, it is clearly desirable both for individuals and for society overall, to devise and introduce policies which prohibit or limit their proliferation. One policy intervention which can help to achieve... Read more...

Australian report on Bisphenol A

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has released its report on Bisphenol A (BPA) in food packaging and the risks to consumers. The compound BPA has a controversial history. It is suspected of being an endocrine disruptor (a chemical that mimics some of the natural hormones of the human body). It can also be directly toxic at high enough doses. More recent studies have found a range of other possible adverse effects from BPA, but this research is still preliminary and subject to confirmation. Some materials containing BPA have been banned in some countries (i.e. Canada), and there have been suggestions that Australia should follow suit. On 30 June 2010, the Australian Government anno... Read more...

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