With Australia taking over as having one of the worlds fastest growth rates of childhood obesity, a timely breakthrough could soon see our school children eating foods enriched with dietary fibre which comes from sugar cane.
Austrades Fukuoka-based Senior Trade Commissioner, Jarrod Waring said Japanese school children will lead the way, now Japan has placed orders for an Australian sugar cane by-product, bagasse, which is being made into dietary fibre.
"Bagasse, a by-product of sugar can now be converted into enriched dietary fibre that can be added to any processed food or products to make it healthier," Mr Waring said.
"Japan has already placed orders with Kristevefourspace Ussy who has a memorandum of understanding with Mossman Central Mill in Queensland to produce the worlds first commercial bagasse dietary fibre. "
"Export potential to Japan is high, the current production volumes are already forward purchased this season amidst the Japanese Governments growing concerns for its unhealthy youth demanding increased daily fibre for intake for their school children."
"The product is highly valued in Japan where it will be added to childrens lunches as part of a new government initiative," he said.
The announcement follows this months meeting of the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) in Sydney which addressed the growing problem of obesity in Australia and around the world.
Australia has one of the worlds fastest growth rates for childhood obesity with two-thirds of Australian men, half of all women and a quarter of all children either overweight or obese.
Mr Waring said the demand for bagasse is in huge demand in Japan and it wont be long before the benefits of bagasse are seen in Australia.
The concept to produce bagasse was borne out of research done by Professor Shinto of Ryukyu University in Okinawa Japan and was brought to the sugar cane industry in Far North Queensland by Austrades Okinawa District Manager Yasushi Miyazono.
The process has now gone beyond the concept and marketing stage to commercial start up. Cairns based company Kristevefourspace Ussy (KFSU) has a joint venture with Mossman Central Mill to produce dietary fibre out of sugarcane bagasse which is 40 per cent of the total cane biomass and is usually burnt as fuel for their boilers.
KSFU Managing Director Gordon Edwards said bagasse is readily absorbed into processed foods and cooking without any flavour or texture.
"We use steam, heat and pressure to break the cellulose and hemicelluloses structure of the bagasse and this is then dried and milled as dietary fibre, with a value ten times that of bulk sugar," Mr Edwards said.
The Far North Queensland (FNQ) Area Consultative Committees sugar cane reform spokesman Fred Marchant believes the project is leading the way for sugar cane diversification and assisting the FNQ century old sugar industry move into the 21st Century.