Top 5 Scandals/Issues 2008

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 23rd December 2008

As Australian Food News continues to take a look back at the year that was, 2008, we turn our attention to controversy and concerns that were highlighted throughout the year.

1. China melamine in powdered milk controversy.
The scandal that had food regulators around the world scampering to discover whether any products imported from China contained melamine levels above acceptable levels.

Once again it brought China’s food safety record into disrepute and managed to bring worldwide recognition to the chemical melamine. The criminal contamination of milk products in China tragically caused the deaths of four babies and 300,000 infant illnesses. And made the jalapeno chili salmonella issue in the US pale in comparison.

2. Environment/Plastic bags.
Environmental and social responsibilities have become a big deal to businesses in recent years as concern about global warming swells. More consumers are looking for so-called ‘ethical’ products, according to research, and legislation changes are on the way. Among the most notable is the definitive 5 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and new laws likely to be on the way to deal with plastic bags. In South Australia, a ban will begin next year, while a levy has been proposed by some state environment ministers.

3. Advertising.
Junk food and alcohol advertising came under heavy scrutiny here in Australia and around the world as health and consumer groups sought bans and restrictions. Many major food manufacturers have advised they will limit advertising to children by either placing a complete ban or only promoting products that met a set nutritional criteria. And don’t expect the controversial issue to die down next year.

4. Obesity.
A lot of stats continue to come out about obesity levels. And most are not too pretty. The so-called “obesity epidemic” has been a key behind the health and wellness trend that continues to gather pace in the food industry. It is also behind a growing number of legislative changes around the globe. Some changes have been a push toward providing healthier food at schools, while calorie counts on menus and a ban on trans fats have been seen in the US. There have even been calls for “junk food” tax. Most important is the need for increased public education on health matters. While a major issue for the food industry, it has created opportunities for those willing to take them.

The pending release of the Federal Government’s health strategy will be monitored with great interest.

5. “Food crisis”
The global economic downturn goes without saying but something many have forgotten is the fears of a global food shortage earlier this year. Rice and wheat prices were soaring as commodity speculators drove the prices up. People were discussing the impact of biofuels on the world’s food supply, while others were claiming the world would be short of food in decades. It led to protests and riots in some developing countries, where families were put under intense financial stress due to the high cost of basic food staples. The uproar has since died down and commodity prices have dropped by upwards of 25% from their highs. However, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation is warning that the problem has not gone away and higher food prices could be on the way back as soon as the fear evaporates from the financial markets. A need for a worldwide solution to the problem of a growing population, more droughts and less arable land is needed.

Please feel free to add to this list by posting your comments below…