Ireland’s booming food exports defy Brexit fear

The value of Irish food and drink exports last year exceeded a staggering  €11bn for the first time in the country’s history-and meat had a big part to play. Last year marked the seventh successive year of export growth for Irish food and drink, with prepared foods, sheepmeat and pork growing the fastest in a record-breaking year for the  industry.

Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed said one of the notable achievements was the fact that Ireland successfully diversified its market in a year when the UK-it’s largest trading partner-voted in favour of leaving the EU.

‘While trade with the UK fell by 8% triggered by challenging exchange rates, uncertainty arising from Brexit and further competitive pressures, this was offset by increased exports to international and emerging markets such as North America, China and the rest of Asia’ said Creed on January 11th.

The Minister added that Brexit had led to serious currency volatility and unprecedented uncertainty with the country’s number one trading partner. This challenge highlighted the importance of market access and the need for more ‘continued investment in innovation and competitiveness’. Creed said the UK would remain a ‘critically important market’ for Irish food products post-Brexit and did not sugar-coat the headwinds ahead as the UK looks set to trigger Article 50 by March 2017. ‘The 2016 export figures illustrate clearly the importance of collaborative action by government, its agencies and the industry, and the potential for proactive effort o international markets to mitigate the risks associated with these challenges’ said Creed.

President Trump & the future of free trade.

As the World digests the news that Donald Trump is to become the 45th President of the United States of America, his views on international trade will be closely scrutinised by the global food market.

A self confessed ‘free trader’, one of the main international policies is to appoint ‘tough and smart trade negotiators to fight on behalf of American workers’ as he feels that the US hasn’t gotten the best of existing and potential trade agreements.

As part of his ‘Seven-Point Plan’ to rebuild the American economy by fighting free trade, Trump wants to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which has not yet been ratified by the US Council.Trump has gone on record saying it is a ‘horrible deal’ and believed that China would take advantage despite not being one of the TPP nations. Trump stated that,’ this is one of the worst trade deals and I would rather not have it. We’re losing now over $500 billion in terms of imbalance with China, $75 billion a year imbalance with Japan’.

Trump has already been congratulated by many of the World leaders including our own Enda Kenny and also the  British Prime Minister Theresa May who said that Britain and the US have an ‘endearing and special relationship’ and that the two would remain ‘close partners on trade, security and defence.’

The President-elect also has the support of Russian President Vladimir Putin which could result in a stronger relationship between the US and Russia.

Sugar taxes in the UK: Populist case not tackling real concerns or should we follow suit?

The proposed ‘sugar tax’ adopted by the UK was deemed in the food industry and beyond as little more than populist light relief to brighten the impending gloom felt during the Brexit vote. But what’s worse argues Professor Jack Winkler, is that the government’s ‘pseudo-consultation’ about the tax is now evading every big question worth asking.

Should for example ‘slushy’ ices or dissolvable powders be subjected to the proposed ‘soft drinks industry levy’ in the UK? What about those lattes laced with caramel shot’s? Such existential issues are among the 46 specific questions that make up the UK government’s formal consultation on the levy, humanely rebranded by the media there as the ‘Sugar tax’.

There are no questions about the other major sources of sugar in the diet for example such as chocolate, cereals, ice-cream or indeed the white stuff itself. In short, it evades every question worth asking about the tax and Ireland should only consider a more well rounded proposal that tackles the big questions posed. To conclude, if you want to cut sugar specifically, then tax sugar itself, not one category that contains sugar, i.e. soft drinks.

Scientists to trial cockroach milk as a future protein supplement.

Scientists have discovered that cockroach milk is four times more nutritious than cow’s milk with a protein that releases energy slowly over a long period of time.

The cockroach secretes a type of milk that contains protein crystals to feed it’s embryo’s before they are born.These crystals, in turn, contain protein and essential fats, sugars and amino acids. The protein also has other benefits, like the fact that it releases energy slowly over a long period of time. It’s time released food.

The Centre of Cellular and Molecular Platforms in India which has run the preliminary trials on this stated that ,’Once we can make them (proteins) in significant quantities than the product will be comprehensively tested for safety before deciding on the next steps.’

Brexit fears driving up food and drink prices.

Market fears over the UK’s potential exit from Europe are driving up food and drink costs warns buying specialist Lynx Purchasing. Fresh produce costs have been increasing as uncertainty in the City over the outcome of the referendum on June 23rd has seen sterling fall in value against both the euro and the dollar.

The report published by Lynx said that suppliers were facing the challenge of the weakening f the sterling that has hit the price of imports both from Europe and further afield. Key commodities such as coffee and bananas are traded in dollars also pushing up the prices. The availability and cost of labour and the introduction of the National Living Wage in April have already increased labour costs the report said.

The report also found that food producers relied heavily on migrant labour from the EU for seasonal work such as picking and packing. The producers were worried about the longer term availability of these workers and the effect on their costs in the event Britain leaves.

Higher prices for fuel are also being paid by UK companies shipping from Europe, along with increased costs due to the migrant crisis. Lynx said that hauliers had significantly increased the charges per pallet year-on-year to cover increased insurance costs. The supply chain thrives on certainty and with the forthcoming referendum splitting the polls, ambiguity for food companies on the outcome of the poll is causing uncertainty.

Sugar (Added sugar versus natural sugar)-Which is friend and which is foe?

Sugar like any food commodity should be part of any well balanced diet. It is imperative though not to be hood-winked by the different food packaging that detail ‘naturally occurring sugars only’, and for consumers to see this as a license to consume as much product as possible.

Naturally occurring sugars can be as detrimental to one’s diet as ‘added sugars’. This is an important point, when one is purchasing in food products they should check the ‘sugar level’ on the nutritional values on the label as this is the tangible metric to consider and not whether sugars are natural or added sugars in product. Any value above 20g of sugar per 100ml/g is to be wary of. This can be inclusive of the aforementioned naturally occurring sugars or added sugars (those added to food and not naturally occurring).

What we can do to combat this major issue which is seeing children grow obese and having very early tooth decay is to ensure we read all labels on purchases as above, keep sugary treats (we all have them!) to main meal times only, reduce/eliminate eating sticky/chewy confectionery with high sugar content as they will stick to ones teeth and build up acid on teeth over a longer period of time, eat fresh not dried fruit, keep smoothies to meal times and use fluoride toothpaste for both yourself and your children. These small steps will greatly reduce the chances of both yourself and your children inheriting bad habits that lead to dental decay and ill health. At the moment, food companies don’t have to tell you what is naturally occurring and what has been added so you can be forgiven for being confused.

Essential part of diet, Milk is most adulterated food commodity

Milk, which is considered an essential part of our daily diet, is the most adulterated food commodity. Milk is adulterated by adding water, removing cream, adding artificial colouring agents and preservatives such as formaldehyde, boric cids and other acids.

Milk adulterants can also have hazardous health effects/impact on unsuspecting consumers as some of the aforementioned detergents can cause food poisoning and other gastrointestinal complications.

Other chemicals that are used such as hydrogen peroxide and formalin to prolong shelf life in milk products can be very harmful to health too.

WHO report backs sugar tax to halt child obesity

A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) backs a sugar tax, mandatory nutrient labelling and restrictions on marketing to children in a bid to tackle the child obesity epidemic around the world.

Produced by the WHO’s Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO), the report was presented to the WHO yesterday after two years in the making, during which time ECHO consulted over 100 WHO member states and reviewed nearly 180 online comments.

The 68 page report urges the food industry to play its part in ending the obesogenic environment which exposes children to cheap, readily available ‘ultra-processed, energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods’ by producing healthier food and drinks. But it also calls for government -led policy, such as taxation and marketing restrictions. The report will be put to the WHO assembly in May 2016 when member states will have the opportunity to discuss the findings and provide the support needed to go forward with implementation of the guidance. Some of the WHO’s recommendations include: Implement an effective tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, reduce the exposure of children and adolescents to, and the power of the marketing of unhealthy foods & a standardised global nutrient labelling system and interpretive front-of-pack labelling.

The role of food education was also emphasised in the report, which recommended nutrition literacy be a core part of the curriculum as well as bans on the sale of foods in salt, sugar and fat in schools.’Strong commitments must be accompanied by strong implementation systems and well-defined accountability mechanisms.’

Sugar-sweetened beverages increase belly fat, yet diet drinks do not

A daily intake of sugary drinks can lead to high levels of visceral belly fat, according to a recent study from the British Heart Association.

The study said that there is a direct correlation between regular sugary beverage intake and a change in visceral adipose tissue in middle age adults. In contrast, the study observed no such association for sugar-free beverages.’ The present study supports current dietary recommendations that limiting sugar-sweetened beverage consumption may be helpful to prevent cardio-metabolic diseases’ the British Heart Association was quoted as saying.

Abdominal adipose tissue, especially visceral adipose tissue (VAT), commonly referred to as belly fat, has been linked to type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other health problems. The study said both the quantity and quality of the belly fat are associated with cardio-metabolic health risks.

Be mindful of what foods you purchase in 2016 as 33% ends up being discarded.

A survey conducted in 2015 known as the ‘Future of Food’ showed that up to 33% of the average family’s grocery shopping ends up in the bin. We need to be more conscious of what we eat and to try and be more diligent on the likes of portion size, bulk purchasing at reduced rates, etc so as to negate this worrying trend seen in the more wealthier parts of the globe.

Wishing you all a happy and prosperous 2016.

Elite Food Solutions.