The frozen berries health scare has sparked alarm across Australia, but it’s also shining a very bright light on confusing food labels and where our food comes from. Read on to find out more about the berry recall, who is at risk and – for parental peace of mind – a list of made in Australia snacks and foods to feed your children.
Thirteen people across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia have now contracted hepatitis A, believed to be linked to raspberries in several Nanna’s frozen products. The virus that causes hepatitis A spreads when it enters the mouth, which can happen when hands, food or other objects are contaminated with faeces of a person with hepatitis A.
Health authorities expect the number of cases to grow – and The Australian reports today that thousands of children at 34 Victorian schools, nine schools and childcare centres in South Australia and three Queensland schools are being monitored after eating berries involved in the alert. They are anxiously awaiting the 15 to 50 days it takes for the infection to show up.
Victorian distributor Patties Foods has recalled four products:
- 1kg packs of Nanna’s Frozen Raspberries with best before dates until September 15, 2016;
- 1kg packets of Nanna’s Mixed Berries (best before dates until November 22, 2016);
- Creative Gourmet Mixed Berries 300g packets (best before dates until December 10, 2017);
- 500g of Creative Gourmet Mixed Berries (best before dates until October 6).
Consumer rights advocacy group Choice has called for new rules on food labels to clarify exactly where products come from. Policy and campaigns adviser Katinka Day says people should be able to make informed choices about food.
“One of the products in the latest recall, Creative Gourmet Mixed Berries, is listed on the Coles website as being ‘Packed in Australia using imported fruit’. This is totally meaningless when it comes to the country of origin of the fruit inside the pack,” she says.
“It’s time to give consumers the information they want, remove the information they don’t, and test the way we label our food to make sure it’s meaningful.”
So what should you buy?
Like all parents, the hepatitis A scare – and revelations the berries were grown in one of China’s most polluted provinces – has worried all of us here at Babyology. So we set out to find snacks for kids that are made in Australia, with local produce.
I took a trip to my local supermarket to find truly Australian-made products – and it was eye-opening, to say the least. After almost two hours of searching, I only found a handful of goods without imported ingredients.
The most worrying thing is that it’s actually really hard to tell. Often packaging is emblazoned with bold “Made in Australia” tags – but look closer and all is not quite as it seems. When you eventually find the fine print, which can be on the bottom or side of the packet instead of with the ingredients list, it actually says “made from local and imported ingredients”. And then there’s no telling where it’s made.
Just because it’s made in Australia doesn’t mean it’s Australian produce; and just because it’s an Australian company doesn’t mean it’s made in Australia. But it doesn’t have to be owned by an Australian company to be made in Australia.
And to make it even more confusing, some brands have totally Australian lines alongside similar products made from imported ingredients. For example, snack packs of Sunbeam Australia sultanas are completely Australian made and grown, but not the sultana and apple or sultana and cranberry varieties.
Most disappointing was the lack of Australian-only product in the baby and toddler food aisle. All bar a couple included imported ingredients. Many yoghurts and kids’ snacks contain fruit, which producers say is difficult to buy in large quantities locally, according to News Corp Australia.
Rafferty’s Garden is among popular baby food producers to use local and imported ingredients. On its Facebook page, the company says it sources its berries from different locations because of seasonality: “But we can assure you that none of the berries in our Rafferty’s Garden products are sourced from Chile or China. We also ensure that our berries are heat-treated at high temperatures to eliminate any risk of process contamination and to ensure our products are safe to eat.”
To the very best of our knowledge, here are some of the products made in Australia, with local ingredients:
- Goulburn Valley Australian peaches, apricots, pears, fruit salad (snack tubs)
- Cobs Natural Popcorn
- SPC Little Tub of Apple Puree
- SPC My Daily Fruit tubs
- Coles Australian pear slices in juice, pink lady apple slices (snack tubs)
- SPC Aussie-Made baked beans or spaghetti tins
- Heinz baked beans tins
- Rosella tomato soups
- Sunbeam Australia sultanas
- Cheese – all types of Bega, Coon, Nimbin, Devondale
- Mainland Munchables
- Kraft Philadelphia cheese
- Heinz Little Kids macaroni and meatballs, spaghetti bolognaise, chicken and pumpkin rice
- Devondale Smoothies tetra packs
- Kurrajong Kitchen Lavosh Bites
- Baby-O organic puree pouches
- Sakata rice crackers
- Vegemite Cheesybite Snackabouts
If you know of any more, let us know below. But my tip – go for homemade snacks with fresh fruit, veggies and eggs bought from local farmers’ markets or directly from producers at the farm gate. Not only will you know exactly where everything comes from, but you’ll be supporting local farmers and small businesses too. Or even better, get out in the garden and grow your own!
The recalled frozen berries are sold mainly in Woolworths, Coles and IGA supermarkets. Anyone with queries can phone Patties Foods on 1800 650 069.