The Food Pyramid has a long and interesting history attached to it and was also influenced by necessity and pressure by various food industries.
The very first “food pyramid” was a Swedish invention of necessity. Gripped by high food prices in the 1970’s they developed a guide for the population indicating “basic” and “supplementary” foods – in a nutshell
basic foods were foods considered essential to a person’s well-being and supplementary foods were foods that provided vitamins and minerals basic foods did not.
There were many different versions of dietary guidelines throughout American history dating back to the 1800’s but The American Food Pyramid I was familiar with growing up, emerged in the 1990’s and was disbanded for the current “My Plate” option available today. To establish the guidelines for the Food Pyramid, a team of nutritionists were commissioned to submit their recommendations for the diagram, with the intention that this would become the basic guidelines for the American diet. However once this recommendation was submitted to industry for comment, they began extensively lobbying the government to have the guidelines amended to protect their various industries interests. Eg. Grain industry, Meat industry, and Agriculture industry, Dairy Industry.
Below is an excerpt from Luise Light the Nutritionist who led the team recommending the guidelines for the initial American Food Pyramid.
“When our version of the Food Guide came back to us revised, we were shocked to find that it was vastly different from the one we had developed. As I later discovered, the wholesale changes made to the guide by the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture were calculated to win the acceptance of the food industry. For instance, the Ag Secretary’s office altered wording to emphasize processed foods over fresh and whole foods, to downplay lean meats and low-fat dairy choices because the meat and milk lobbies believed it’d hurt sales of full-fat products; it also hugely increased the servings of wheat and other grains to make the wheat growers happy. The meat lobby got the final word on the color of the saturated fat/cholesterol guideline which was changed from red to purple because meat producers worried that using red to signify “bad” fat would be linked to red meat in consumers’ minds.
Where we, the USDA nutritionists, called for a base of 5-9 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables a day, it was replaced with a paltry 2-3 servings (changed to 5-7 servings a couple of years later because an anti-cancer campaign by another government agency, the National Cancer Institute, forced the USDA to adopt the higher standard).
Our recommendation of 3-4 daily servings of whole-grain breads and cereals was changed to a whopping 6-11 servings forming the base of the Food Pyramid as a concession to the processed wheat and corn industries. Moreover, my nutritionist group had placed baked goods made with white flour — including crackers, sweets and other low-nutrient foods laden with sugars and fats — at the peak of the pyramid, recommending that they be eaten sparingly. To our alarm, in the “revised” Food Guide, they were now made part of the Pyramid’s base. And, in yet one more assault on dietary logic, changes were made to the wording of the dietary guidelines from “eat less” to “avoid too much,” giving a nod to the processed-food industry interests by not limiting highly profitable “fun foods” (junk foods by any other name) that might affect the bottom line of food companies.”
Unsurprisingly, as noted in The Wall Street Journal, obesity rates have increased ever since the introduction of the food pyramid, aka the day millions of people suddenly thought eating eleven billion slices of white bread per day was healthy.
After 30 years of the old Food Pyramid we finally have a long awaited and needed amendment, better reflecting a model that I believe will serve the generations to come much more effectively. The changes come as Australian waistlines continue to balloon, with about 65 per cent of adults over the age of 18 now classified as overweight or obese, and out of those, about 25 per cent considered severely obese.
The three-tiered design has given way to five specific food sections, with plant-based foods still taking up the largest amount of space, while fruit, vegetables and legumes are emphasised in the bottom layer.
Grain foods, moderate amounts of dairy and protein foods such as lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes follow, with the top — and smallest — layer advocating for tiny amounts of healthy fats.
For the first time, the pyramid also specifically encourages people to reduce their sugar intake, replace salt with healthy spices and herbs, and drink more water.
It is certainly better late than never.
Fruit and vegetable pesticide faces Australian ban
Australia’s chemical regulator, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), is considering banning dimethoate. The APVMA is concerned that the insecticide, widely used to control fruit fly in fruit and vegetables, may pose a health risk for consumers.
After completing a Residues and Dietary Risk Assessment, the APVMA said this week that the use of dimethoate on many crops exceeds the health standard established in January this year.
Global obesity levels calculated by Australian researchers
New research by Professor Boyd Swinburn and Gary Sacks, with the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Obesity at Deakin University, Melbourne, has found that global obesity rates began to rise in the 1970s, and that by 2008 an estimated 1.46 billion adults were overweight while a further 502 million were obese.
Soy, fibre, and nuts important for lowering ‘bad cholesterol’
Research by some Canadians published this week by the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that when it comes to lowering LDL levels (the so-called ‘bad cholesterol’), what you eat is more important than what you don’t eat.
Certain cholesterol-friendly foods can be more effective in lowering levels of LDL, or ‘bad cholesterol’ than foods merely low in saturated fats, according to the Canadian researchers.
Australian Food Standard baulks on raw milk products
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is consulting the general public on whether permission should be given for raw milk (non-pasteurised) products to be sold in Australia.
FSANZ is calling for public comment on its Proposal P1007, looking at permissions for raw milk products to be sold in Australia.
Exclusive ALDI range gets the Heart Tick
For the first, the National Heart Foundation has given an Australian supermarket group the Heart Tick endorsement an Australian retailer for an exclusive range of products.
ALDI is launching a range of exclusive-brand products that will display the National Heart Foundation Tick, said the company in a statement issued August 10 2011.
The rise of gluten-free foods in the UK
Rising diagnosis rates of coeliac disease, combined with an increased awareness of the perceived benefits of a gluten-free diet, are driving growth in the free-from sector in the UK.
Euromonitor forecasts that the gluten-free sector will grow by almost 10% between 2011 and 2015 to become a channel worth GBP95.5m (US$155.2m) a year.
According to Norma McGough, head of diet & health at charity Coeliac UK, some 14,000 people are newly diagnosed each year, a number which she says was “assumed to be much lower”.
FDA (USA) proposes gluten-free labelling standards
The US Food and Drug Administration has proposed standard definitions for manufacturers who want to label their products as being gluten-free.
The FDA said yesterday (2 August) that it is proposing that foods bearing the claim cannot contain “20 parts per million or more” gluten. The agency said the limit was based on the available methods for gluten detection, as current methods cannot reliably detect the amount of gluten in a food when the level was less than 20ppm.
The threshold is also similar to the labelling standards used by many other countries, and conforms to the standards set by the Codex Alimentarius Commission in 2008, the FDA said.
“Before finalising our gluten-free definition, we want up-to-date input from affected consumers, the food industry, and others to help assure that the label strikes the right balance,” said FDA deputy commissioner for foods Michael Taylor.
Weston’s flour and semolina mill back in business
Queensland’s largest flour mill and only durum semolina mill, owned by Weston Milling, has recommenced production after an extensive rebuild that followed the devastating Brisbane floods in January 2011.
The mill, located at Moorooka in Brisbane since 1954, is of strategic importance to Weston Milling’s supply of flour for domestic and international markets.
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Conflicting objectives in Country of Origin Labelling?
Four new definitions recommended “Made of Australian ingredients” claim: at least 80% by weight (excluding water) of all ingredients or components of Australian origin. “Made of Australian and imported ingredients” claim: >50% by weight (excluding water) of ingredients and components of Australian origin. “Made of Imported and Australian ingredients” claim: <50% by weight (excluding water) of ingredients and components of Australian origin “Grown in Australia” claim: for unpackaged foods wholly grown in Australia.
New online grocery store to take on Australia’s major supermarkets
An ambitious new online grocery store, Groceryrun.com.au, is being launched today. It aims to provide more competition for Australia’s leading supermarkets and is claiming its business will “halve grocery bills” of those who shop through it. Groceryrun.com.au says it has conducted a 12-month trial with “CatchOfTheDay” offering groceries as part of a two day monthly shopping event where the company claims it sold on average two grocery items a second and netted over $1 million in 48 hours.
Cheese recalled after shard of metal found
New Zealand-based dairy giant Fonterra has recalled several batches of its Mainland Tasty cheese after a shard of metal was found in one of its block cheese products. The products in Australia recalled are: Mainland Extra Tasty block 200gm with a best before date of 28 February 2012 (batch JI) Mainland Extra Tasty block 400gm with a best before date of 28 February 2012 (batch AI). The products in question are sold in Woolworths, Coles, IGA and Franklins supermarkets.
Fruit juices recalled over fears that they contain metal shavings
Japanese soft drink company Asahi Beverages Australia Pty Ltd and Woolworths Supermarkets have announced an immediate recall of several home branded fruit juices over fears that they may contain metal shavings. The products in question are Woolworths’ Apple Time Juice Varieties with the following best before dates: Apple Time Apple (2 litre) 28/05/2012, Apple Time Apple Mango (2 litre) 28/05/2012, Apple Time Triple Berries (2 litre) 28/05/2012. These products have been recalled in Queensland only. Woolworths Homebrand Orange (3 litre) with a best before date of 27/05/2012 or 29/05/2012, and Woolworths Homebrand Orange Mango (3 litre) with a best before date of 27/05/2012 or 29/05/2012 are subject to a nationwide recall.
Salt levels in bread voluntarily lowered by Australian manufacturers
The Medical Journal of Australia has published a report which has found that non-government volunteer organisations in Australia and New Zealand have had a positive impact in encouraging bread manufacturers to voluntarily reduce sodium levels in bread products in Australia and New Zealand. Dr Helen Eyles from The University of Auckland’s Clinical Trials Research Unit said, “Bread is the largest contributor to dietary sodium intake in both Australia and New Zealand, and excess sodium can cause blood pressure to rise over time, greatly increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.”
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Public health organisations back call for Traffic Light labelling
Australian public health organisations have co-signed a letter from consumer advocacy group CHOICE, urging Federal Government to adopt the Traffic Light front-of-pack food labelling scheme.
Botched bakery batch
Kerry Pinaccle Pty Ltd is recalling batches of their Choc Cherry Slice and Choc Chip Flapjack Slice sold in NSW and interstate in Coles supermarkets.
The batches are being recalled because they contain eggs and sulphites without the required declaration on the label. Eggs and sulphites are allergens for some people.
The recalled product is:
Choc Cherry Slice and Choc Chip Flapjack Slice in a 500g 12 pack, with plastic flo wrap and a clear front. Multiple ‘best before’ dates. The affected product was available for purchase between 17 October 2011 and 25 October 2011.
The recall applies only to the above batches of this product.
Consumers with an allergy or intolerance to eggs or sulphites should not consume the product.
Consumers can return the product to the place of purchase for a refund.
National workshop to inject health into food
A food innovation workshop in Werribee, Victoria yesterday attracted more than 120 participants from government, the food industry and research organizations to share ways to make Australian food healthier.
The workshop highlighted the work of the ‘Australian Government Food and Health Dialogue’ (the Dialogue) established in March 2009 following a 2007 children’s nutrition and physical activity survey which found that many Australian children were consuming a diet high in salt and saturated fat and low in essential vitamins and minerals.
Asian vegetables jam packed full of healthy folate, research finds
New research from the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) has found that several types of Asian vegetables contain folate levels equal to or greater than spinach, making them one of the richest sources of folate known.
The research team, led by scientists at the Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) used new technologies to measure the folate levels of ten Asian vegetables including buk choy, choy sum and wombok and compared them to spinach.
RIRDC’s Managing Director Craig Burns said, “We know that Asian vegetables are being eaten by a growing number of Australians because they look and taste great, and now we have research confirming another one of their positive health attributes.
“Folate deficiency has been implicated in a number of disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, breast and colon cancers, depression, dementia, cleft lip/palate and hearing loss.”
FSANZ calls for submissions on GM soybean application
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) today called for submissions on an application to change the Food Standards Code to allow food derived from a genetically modified soybean.
FSANZ Chief Executive Officer Steve McCutcheon said the application was seeking permission to allow food derived from a soybean genetically modified to be tolerant to the herbicide dicamba.
Dicamba controls annual and perennial rose weeds in grain crops and highlands, and it is used to control brush and bracken in pastures, as well as legumes and cacti.
Mr McCutcheon said, “All genetically modified (GM) foods undergo a comprehensive premarket safety assessment by FSANZ before being approved in the Food Standards Code. This application, submitted by Monsanto, is for a soybean line containing a gene derived from a soil bacterium that inactivates dicamba.
“FSANZ welcomes comments from government agencies, public health professionals, industry and the community on the application.”
Business SA calls for South Australia’s GM crop ban to be lifted
A business lobby group in South Australia is calling for the State Government to lift its ban on genetically modified crops.
There are currently no GM crops grown commercially in South Australia with the possible exception of blue carnations and carnations with an extended vase life. Apart from Tasmania, South Australia is the only State to have a ban on GM crops.
The Chief Executive Officer of Business SA, a group that lobbies on behalf of the businesses in South Australia, Peter Vaughan said that the State’s GM ban is detrimental to the food industry.
In a statement passed on to Australian Food News, Mr Vaughan said that regulatory “burdens” throughout the food supply chain must be eased to encourage greater efficiency for businesses in South Australia.
Mr Vaughan said, “Genetically modified crops have overcome many of the challenging conditions faced by growers and an extensive trial would address the issues, concerns and benefits.
Junk food diet can lead to infertility in males, study finds
Scientists from America and Spain have announced that a diet of junk food can lead to infertility in healthy males.
A series of studies were conducted by scientists from the Harvard School of Public Health, University of Rochester and the University of Murcia, in Spain. The findings were presented today at the 67th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine.
The University of Rochester’s study recruited men aged between 18 and 22. Diets were assessed via a questionnaire and semen quality via standard measures of sperm concentration, motility and morphology in semen samples. Statistical methods were used to control for potentially confounding factors such as race, tobacco use and BMI. Using a factor analysis, the men’s diets were identified into two types: a ‘Western diet’, characterized by high intakes of red meat and refined grains, or a ‘prudent diet’, with high intakes of fish, vegetables and whole grains. Adherence to a Prudent diet was associated with higher sperm motility.
Almost half of Australians failing to eat their five-a-day vegetables
Almost half of Australian adults are failing to meet the recommended daily intake of vegetables due to ‘lack of convenience’, according to a survey by kitchenware brand Tefal.
According to Tefal, the survey of 2,500 Australians revealed that 45 per cent of Australians failed to meet the recommended daily intake of five vegetable portions. Of these people, 39 per cent said that preparing and cooking vegetables wasn’t convenient as part of their busy lifestyle, and this was major impediment to vegetable consumption.
Publishing the survey’s findings this week, Tefal reported that the second biggest barrier to consuming vegetables was a lack of culinary skills, with 37 per cent of people stating that they often avoided vegetables as they weren’t confident about how to prepare and cook them. Of those surveyed, 15 per cent claimed they weren’t aware they should be consuming five portions of vegetables a day in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Read these stories and more at Australian Food News
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Sunlight could help prevent food allergies
A study published this week by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, based in Parkville Victoria, has found a potential link between sunlight exposure and allergies. Children in southern parts of Australia with less exposure to sunlight were found to be more likely to develop food allergies and eczema than those who lived in the sunnier north of Australia. The study, which has just been published by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in the February 2012 Journal issue of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, was based on data from over 7,600 Australian children and how rates of food allergy, eczema and asthma varied from the north, (the state of Queensland),central (the state of New South Wales) and south ( the states of Victoria and Tasmania) of Australia. Lead researcher and Associate Professor Dr Katie Allen said the study added weight to the hypothesis that sunlight might play a role in the increasing prevalence of food allergies.
“Soft drinks could cause asthma”, South Australian research team
A new study, published in the 7 February 2012 issue of the journal Respirology, has drawn a link between high soft drink consumption and increased risks of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). A team of researchers led by Dr Zumin Shi, of the University of Adelaide, conducted research on consumption of soft drinks from March 2008- June 2010. The researchers used computer-assisted telephone interviewing nearly 17,000 participants aged 16 years and older in South Australia between March 2008 and June 2010. The surveyed soft drinks included lemonade, Coca-cola, and flavored mineral waters such as Mizone, Powerade, and Gatorade. Results had shown that in South Australia, one in ten adults drank more than half a litre of soft drink daily.
Coeliacs seek review of Australian definition of “Gluten Free”
The organisation representing Coeliac Disease sufferers in Australia is advocating the Australian government revise the “Gluten Free” standard in Australia. The organisation Coeliac Australia had approached both Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and the Australian Competition Consumer Commission (ACCC) with the aim of altering the “Gluten Free” standard to “less than 20ppm”. The organisation made a similar submission to the body developing Australia’s national food plan. In its submission to the Australian government’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) developing the national food plan, Coeliac Australia stated that “the regulation with regard to the definition of ‘Gluten Free’ in relation to food ingredient claims poses a significant burden on the food industry in Australia”. The organisation advocated the adoption of the internationally accepted definition of ‘Gluten Free’ under the international food standards of the Codex Alimentarius, by which Gluten Free is defined as “less than 20ppm gluten”, and said this would dramatically reduce this burden. Coeliac Australia also stated that the Codex definition of the term “Gluten Free” under internationally accepted standards had established that “less than 20ppm” is an appropriate and safe standard for European countries. The USA looked at finalisation of a gluten free standard with 20ppm also being the acceptable threshold. The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code defines ‘Gluten Free’ as “no detectable gluten” and “no ingredient derived from oats or malt”. (The latter requirement is related to poor analytical methods for detecting gluten in oats or malt). Coeliac Australia says the Australian definition causes a problem because the testing methods for gluten have improved dramatically in recent years and the limit of detection in Australia is now 3ppm. So for a product to be labelled ‘Gluten Free’ in Australia, it would need to contain less than 3ppm. Accordingly, products labelled ‘Gluten Free’ in Europe may not necessarily be Gluten Free in Australia.
Castlemaine launches smallgoods product claiming “no artificial preservatives or additives”
KR Castlemaine has launched a campaign for a pre-packaged ham product with the claim to be “natural”, using new technologies to become the “first Australian pre-packaged ham that is artificially preservative-free”. This new range of ham is said to be produced using cutting-edge High Pressure Pasteurisation (HPP) technology. The company claims that it “does not use heat”, thereby preserving texture and nutritional value for the product. HR Castlemaine also says the new technology “uses natural vegetable extracts and refrigeration to ensure freshness without the use of artificial flavors”. Australian Dietician, Melanie McGrice, stated that “the range is unique in that offers the practicality of pre-packaged ham without compromising nutritional value or taste.”
For more stories go to Australian Food News
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Regulatory change could bring ‘exotic meats’ to Australia’s supermarkets
A proposal to amend the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, if brought to fruition, means so called “exotic meats” such as bison, emu and crocodile could be sold in Australian supermarkets within a year.Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), which administers the Code, has begun consulting on a proposal to change regulations for producers and processors of minor meat species and wild game.
Australian study links insufficient red meat with anxiety in women
Researchers at Deakin University, in Victoria, have found that eating less than the recommended amount of red meat is related to depression and anxiety in women.
Deakin University’s Associate Professor Felice Jacka investigated the relationship between the consumption of beef and lamb and the presence of depressive and anxiety disorders in more than 1,000 women from the Geelong region of the State of Victoria.
Woolworths labelling error prompts nationwide recall
Australian supermarket chain Woolworths has recalled two cupcake mixes from stores nationwide over fears they contain undeclared traces of milk and nuts following a labelling error.
The products in question are Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Devil’s Food Cupcakes (mix) and Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Confetti Cupcakes (mix). Both products are available in Woolworths, Safeway, Food For Less, and Flemings Supermarkets nationwide.
The products in question are sold in 255g red cardboard boxes. They are imported from the USA but Woolworths said it is responsible for the labelling error. The recall applies to products with all ‘best before’ dates.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has advised that consumers with a milk or tree nut allergy or intolerance to return the product to one of the stores for a refund.
Australian research identifies way to improve peanut allergy diagnosis
Researchers from Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the University of Melbourne have identified a new way to accurately test for peanut allergy.
It is hoped the test will be more cost effective and convenient than standard approaches and minimise over-diagnosis of peanut allergy in the community. The research was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology this week.
Currently, an oral food challenge is the standard for diagnosing peanut allergy, and while an oral food challenge is definitive in diagnosing patients, it is time-consuming, costly and patients risk severe reactions such as anaphylaxis.
The new test researchers have identified uses part of the peanut protein called ‘Arah2’ and involves a two-step screening process. The researchers found they could perform a blood test, followed by the Arah2 test, which was more accurate and highly predictive than using one of the tests alone. They found the two-step testing process reduced the need for oral food challenges by four-fold.
Season commences for new apple varieties in Australia
Two new Australian-grown apple varieties, Kanzi and Greenstar, will be available throughout Australia as of early April 2012.
The Greenstar and Kanzi Marketing Group, made up of several key Australian growers in conjunction with Giston Consulting Services, are responsible for the new apple varieties.
They have been collectively working towards this season’s harvest for the past five years.
Both apple varieties are grown in Australia’s apple-producing regions including Batlow and Orange in NSW, Manjimup in WA, Adelaide Hills in SA and the Mornington Peninsula in VIC.
For these stories and more, visit the Australia Food News Website.
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