- New country of origin food labels might not be fully rolled out until 2017, despite the Federal Government calling the overhaul “urgent” earlier this year.
- As mobile health and fitness apps and wearables gain popularity in Australia, privacy experts have raised concerns that companies are monetising personal medical information.
- Vanuatu health officials have for the first time confirmed cases of the rare mosquito-borne zika (“milder brother” of dengue fever) virus.
Health News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 29th April 2015. Read by Rebecca Foster.
New country of origin food labels might not be fully rolled out until 2017, despite the Federal Government calling the overhaul “urgent” earlier this year.
A hepatitis A outbreak, linked to frozen berries imported from China, prompted the change.
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said talks were continuing with industry and consumers, and the changes would not start until next year.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said people have a right to know more about where their food is coming from.
The Government earlier said it wanted the regime implemented by the end of the year.
The labels will show the amount of locally made content in products, including diagrams to help consumers.
Mr Joyce said pie charts or bar graphs could be used, and the compulsory scheme would focus on the main ingredient in items.
“We’re going to have a form of labelling that is both simple and that is diagrammatic … that reflects the proportionality of what is in the product and how much of that comes from our nation,” he said.
“Country of origin labelling changes is something that’s dear to my heart, it’s something I’ve been fighting for years.
“It is good to see now that we’re actually going to succeed, we’re actually going to deliver.”
As mobile health and fitness apps and wearables gain popularity in Australia, privacy experts have raised concerns that companies are monetising personal medical information.
There are thousands of health and fitness devices and apps on the market, but it is not always clear if users’ data is kept confidential.
Health apps track a person’s exercise habits, diet, weight, mood and even sexual activity.
David Vaile, from the Cyber Space Law and Policy Community at the University of New South Wales, is sceptical of new health apps and devices.
Mr Vaile described e-health as a gold rush for unscrupulous companies who ‘on-sell’ information to third parties.
“It’s the most sensitive information that they’re dealing with — health data and data that’s derived from your body,” he said.
“It’s not being operated by doctors … the business model is monetisation of personal information.”
Mr Vaile said many of the apps and devices are not covered by Australia’s Privacy Act, because many are owned and designed overseas.
“They typically won’t disclose who it’s going to, where it’s going to or exactly what it’s going to be used for.
“It’s out of the country, it’s out of the [Australian] jurisdiction.”
Professor Deborah Lupton, who looks at big data and health research at the University of Canberra, holds similar privacy concerns about new health innovations.
“Research shows that more and more, for example, insurance companies are using people’s personal information that can be harvested from social media interactions and from their use of apps and wearable device software.
“There are many very clever data scientists who know exactly how to access open information that people voluntarily upload to the web.”
She said that information was sold to data companies to build a profile on a consumer.
Vanuatu health officials have for the first time confirmed cases of the rare mosquito-borne zika virus.
Zika is the “milder brother” of dengue fever, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Vanuatu Jacob Kool said.
The two illnesses share similar symptoms of fever, aching joints and rash.
Although there were no recorded deaths from zika, health officials warned it can cause “very explosive outbreaks”.
Like dengue fever, there is no cure for the zika virus.
The WHO advises prevention through using mosquito nets, protective clothing and insect repellent, and removing breeding sites.
Zika was first discovered in 1947 in Rhesus Monkeys in Uganda’s Zika forest.
“Zika is a very strange story … it had caused only about 20 known human cases until 2007, when there was suddenly 6,000 cases on the island of Yap in the North Pacific,” Dr Kool said.
Zika virus symptoms
The symptoms usually last four to seven days.
The mild symptoms and similarity to other illnesses may have been the reason for the low number of confirmed cases.
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