Tonight’s the night for Susan Boyle

May 23, 2009

Six weeks since she wowed the judges and the public in her first appearance on Britain’s Got Talent, Susan Boyle will face the music again tonight (tomorrow morning in NZ).

The Times reports that millions of people will watch the show tonight as Boyle competes for a place in the semi finals.

A fifth of Britain’s population are expected to switch on their televisions this evening to watch a dancing dog, a break-dancing pensioner and a man who can do unspeakable things with a clothes hanger. What they and millions around the world will be waiting for, however, is the return of a doughty Scottish lady whose name is known from West Lothian to New South Wales.

Susan Boyle has gained global recognition for her rendition of I Dreamed a Dream from Les Misérables. The Czech National Symphony Orchestra is preparing for her arrival in July to record an album, a place is being prepared for her in a West End show and a line of Susan Boyle dolls is in production in America.

Tonight the world will learn whether she is also considered good enough to proceed to the next round of Britain’s Got Talent. Assuming that she is, Ms Boyle will perform next week in one of five semi-finals in advance of the final on Saturday evening.

Her fame has put the wee town of Blackburn on the map and regardless regardless of the result of the contest she’s already a winner on the internet.

Her performance has reached the top five in a list of the most watched viral videos – and in only five weeks.


But they did it first

May 23, 2009

The USA is reintroducing export subsidies for dairy products in a tit for tat response to the EU which reintroduced subsidies earlier in the year.

But they did it first is no way to win an argument, but that’s the excuse they’re using.

US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the move is in direct response to the European Union’s introduction earlier this year of export subsidies. It will allow American exporters to compete fairly, he says.

His idea of fair isn’t quite the same as mine.

At the same time, Mr Vilsack says the Obama administration remains strongly committed to a pledge at the recent G20 summit to refrain from protectionism.

He says every attempt will be made to minimise the impact on countries that do not subsidise their dairy producers.

If he wants to give up his day job he could find another writing ads for Tui.

Trade Minister Tim Groser isn’t impressed.

Dairy farmers the world over are under pressure, but this is a short-sighted response when the international dairy market has recently been showing signs of stabilising. The decision is a setback, and will be damaging to world markets.

“Export subsidy assistance will have a relatively small effect on income for US dairy farmers, and may even prove counterproductive by creating uncertainty and depressing international dairy market prices. Unsubsidised producers, like those from New Zealand, will bear the cost of these trade-distorting measures.

“I am disappointed that the United States should have followed the poor example set by the European Union when it reintroduced export subsidies in January.

“While the US and the EU may consider they are both acting within their current WTO commitments, this sends a very negative signal to other WTO members. . .

Groser says it’s not whether these measures are legal but the bad example the EU and USA are setting.

 “The long term solution is clear: we need to complete the WTO Doha Round in order to secure the elimination of agricultural export subsidies. In the meantime, restraint is needed, not a resumption of retaliatory subsidisation.

The recession will provide excuses for increased protectionism which will do little, if anything, to help producers, increase costs for taxpayers and consumers and hamper the eventual recovery.


Cheesemakers may be allowed to keep the bugs

May 23, 2009

The Chesdale Cheese featured in the previous post is at one end of the gastronomic spectrum.

New Zealand also has some very fine examples from the gorumet end, produced by boutique cheese makers such as Whitestone and Blue River.

However, cheese aficionados claim that these cheeses lack the x factor because they have to be made from pasteurised milk and the pasteurisation process which kills the bad bugs also kills the good bacteria which produce the finest flavour.

This may be about to change.

The Food Safety Authority  has mooted a change to allow some cheeses to be produced from unpasteurised milk.

NZFSA’s technical standards and systems assistant director Scott Crerar says under current food regulations, only a small range of unpasteurised milk products are imported and sold. The proposed rules released today for discussion would allow the production, sale, export and import of unpasteurised milk products that have an acceptable bacterial safety level.

“Many local manufacturers support the plan to address inconsistencies in the law that allow some raw milk cheeses made overseas to be imported whilst domestic manufacturers may not make their own equivalent products,” Scott says. “There is also support for the system from consumers who relish the thought of being able to enjoy a wider range of these products.”

. . . The proposed framework recognises some unpasteurised milk products can be produced so they pose a low food safety risk to the general population. However, vulnerable consumers – such as babies and toddlers under three, the frail elderly, expectant mothers and people with weakened immune systems – need to avoid eating them. The proposals include strategies to manage risks for vulnerable consumers by making them aware unpasteurised milk products can pose a higher risk than traditional pasteurised products.

The cheese group which poses no more health risk than pasteurised cheese, including extra-hard grating Parmesan-style raw milk cheeses, can be produced under existing dairy requirements.

The group which includes Roquefort, don’t pose much risk to the general population so could be produced with awhat they call a strategy to manage the risk to vulnerable people and we’d call warnings.

 A third group cannot currently be produced to an acceptable level of safety for the general population so will not be allowed to be produced in New Zealand, or imported.

Products able to be made under the proposed system would have special physical or chemical characteristics and/or be subjected to processing techniques that mean any surviving bacteria would be at safe levels.

The FSA plans to hold workshops in June to outline the proposals and they’ve got a discussion paper with more details.

One concern is that any  problems with gourmet cheese could impact on the reputation of our dairy produce in general and threaten exports markets.

But if other countries manage to produce cheese with unpastuerised milk without endangering their citizens, we ought to be able to find a way to do it here.


Catchy song for plastic cheese

May 23, 2009

If there was an award for the best advertisement for the worst product the Chesdale cheese ad from the 1960s would have to be a contender.

The plastic apology for cheese was (is? do they still make it?) awful but the ad had a catchy tune and cute cartoon characters.

Almost any Kiwi who’s 50ish plus can probably sing We are the blokes from down on the farm, we really know our cheese . . . it’s finest cheddar, made beddar

I came across it last week when searching for a song for Music Month and was reminded of it again because Keeping Stock’s Music Month post today is another blast from the advertising past – the KFC ad from the 1970s. It was called Kentucky Fried back then and although I was a student and rarely saw TV I still know that Hugo said you go and I said no you go . . .

Inquiring Mind has an appropriate choice for the end of a week when we’ve been reminded it’s winter: Weather with You from Crowded House.


Honey man could get stung

May 23, 2009

A New Zealand manuka honey producer reckons the manuka honey produced in Cornwall which sells for 55 pound a jar (about five pound or $NZ14 a teaspoon) isn’t the genuine article.

Kerry Paul, chief executive of Manuka Health New Zealand has offered to test the English honey for methylglyoxal which is the active antibacterial ingredient in some, but not all, manuka honey.

Mr Paul said he had seen a photograph of a pot of the Cornwall honey on a British newspaper website and could tell it was not manuka honey from the colour.

He doubted there was much manuka honey in the pot, which he said looked like it came from “mixed sources”.

“In any case, there is no way an estate in Cornwall can reproduce the conditions which create genuine manuka honey.”

“Even in New Zealand’s climate, you need about one hectare of dense manuka forest per hive to produce 25kgs of honey.

“There would need to be many hectares of manuka to ensure the bees go to the manuka and not other flowers. This will not be the case in Cornwell.

He’s asked someone to send him an unopened jar of the English honey so it can be tested in a lab.

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought honey was on the list of products no-one can bring in to New Zealand. It was more than 20 years ago when I bought whisky laced honey as a gift for my brother and had it taken from me by MAF at the airport and I’m fairly sure it was on the prohibited list on the MAF declaration form when I returned from Fiji last month.

Mr Paul has taken an opportunity to sting the opposition and get some publicity for his company which specialises in manuka honey products but he runs the risk of getting stung himself if someone takes up his offer and sends him a jar of the Cornwall honey.


Bik Runga – Precious Things

May 23, 2009

Day 23 of the tune a day challenge for NZ Music Month.

Bki Runga sings Precious Things.

Keeping Stock went punk yesterday with The Scavengers and Mysterex

Inquiring Mind featured Liam Finn singing Gather to the Chapel


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