A round-up of the big stories hitting Australasia. Today: industry responds to greater energy drink regulation, Aussie 'roo meat to return to Russia, maternal obesity likely to result in overweight children and Tasmanians hoping for Jamie Oliver visit.
Industry responds to greater energy drink regulation
Claiming that energy drinks in Australia are among the world’s most heavily regulated, the Australian Beverages Council has hit back at calls by the Australian Medical Association (AMA) for greater controls on the beverages.
“Energy drinks in Australia are one of the most heavily regulated of all world markets. Our caffeine limits, labelling warning and advisory statements lead the rest of the world for our manufacturers to provide a perfectly safe product for consumers,” said the council’s chief executive, Geoff Parker.
Australian energy drink manufacturers are required to comply with a formulated caffeinated beverages standard that sets the maximum levels of ingredients, such as caffeine. It also imposes mandatory advisory statements to say that the products are not meant for children, pregnant or lactating mothers and those who are sensitive to caffeine.
“As an industry peak body, we have reached out to the AMA on numerous occasions to offer to meet with them to discuss their concerns,” added Parker. “If the AMA are wanting restrictions on caffeine limits in energy drinks, then surely coffee, tea, flavoured milk and chocolate should also be looked at—all sources of caffeine in the diet.”
The AMA had earlier demanded that supermarkets and convenience stores be banned from selling caffeine-charged drinks to minors. Its president, Dr Steve Hambleton, had said people who overdosed on energy drinks risked health problems including heart palpitations, nausea and even psychiatric disturbances.
"The marketing is very powerful - they almost dare you to drink them," he said.
Russia allows Australia to resume kangaroo imports
According to ABC reports, Australia’s largest kangaroo meat supplier has been given the go-ahead to resume exports to Russia following a four-year hiatus.
Macro Meats’ site and operations had been inspected over a three-week period by the Russian quarantine authority after government and industry groups had lobbied the country to lift a ban that had resulted in an estimated A$200m loss per year for the industry.
Restrictions were put in place following Russian claims that the trade presented food safety concerns, citing high levels of E. coli and salmonella.
At one time, Russia accounted for around 70% of kangaroo meat exports.
"I think what they want to do is just start it and see how it goes and then gradually let more in depending on how we perform," said Macro Meats manager Ray Borda.
"There's a lot of weight on our shoulders to do the right thing."
Maternal obesity more likely to result in overweight children
Research from Queensland has found that obese or overweight mothers are more likely to give birth to children with a high BMI.
Having analysed almost 2,000 mothers who gave birth to children between 1981 and 1984, Queensland University researchers learned that mothers who had normal BMI before pregnancy but became overweight or obese over the next two decades were 1.72 times more likely to be overweight than those whose mothers remained at normal weight over the next 21 years.
Moreover, those whose mothers remained persistently overweight were 5.4 times more likely to be obese by 21.
The reason for this, according to the researchers, came not just from lifestyle causes, but because “it is likely that overweight mothers have children at risk of overweight partly because they transmit their genetic propensity to gain weight,” they said.
“To prevent the development of overweight and obesity for young adults, intervention programs should consider the maintenance of normal weight or encouraging a reduced level of weight gain among mothers during their postnatal periods.”
Tasmania clamouring to embrace Jamie Oliver
Tasmanian tourism and hospitality groups have said that a visit from British television chef Jamie Oliver could boost the state's international reputation as a foodie paradise and help tackle Tasmania's obesity epidemic.
In an interview with Australian morning TV program Today, Olivers said that Tasmania was on top of his list of Australian places to visit.
In response, the Tasmanian Hospitality Association general manager, Steve Old, said the state could benefit from Oliver's fresh food and healthy eating initiatives, including the global Ministry of Food campaign.
"I'm sure Jamie would come down here and say how brilliant our produce is and how lucky we are to have it," Old said.
"If Jamie comes down with his Ministry's healthy eating message, it might be enough to encourage the government to have a look at what we can do to address the obesity issue."
"The short answer is we'd love to bring a Ministry of Food to Tasmania," it’s chief executive, Alicia Peardon, said.