Tuesday 18th March 2014

Super-Valu now breathes down Tesco’s neck in Irish supermarket share


Aldi and Lidl increase market share in Ireland while overall grocery sales are down.

Superquinn in Blackrock was one of 24 supermarkets rebranded as SuperValu last month

Tesco is perilously close to losing its pre-eminent position in the Irish supermarket sector with the latest figures from retail analysts Kantar Worldpanel indicating that its market share has fallen again while both Aldi and Lidl outperform the market.

The research published this morning, shows that Aldi and Lidl are growing while the market as a whole is shrinking. The German discounters have seen their market share increase by 1.4 and 0.8 percentage points respectively.

SuperValu is now the State’s Ireland’s second largest grocer after last month’s rebranding of 24 Superquinn stores to SuperValu’s fascia. The supermarket share figures cover the 12 weeks ending up to March 2nd and show that it now accounts for just over 25 per cent of the total market. Tesco remains the most popular retailer although the gap between first and second is now little more than 1 per cent.

“Bringing 24 Superquinn stores under the SuperValu banner has enhanced the retailer’s position as a major player in the grocery market,” said Kantar Worldpanel’s commercial director David Berry. “SuperValu now accounts for 25.3%t of Irish shoppers’ grocery market spend, just 1.1 percentage points behind Tesco. Its sales have remained broadly in line with the market, which shows that it has been able to retain its market share while acquiring assets.”

He said the main challenge for SuperValu was to convince previously loyal Superquinn shoppers of the merits of its brand and “ultimately hold onto their custom”.

Although the overall grocery market has declined for the fifth successive month, Aldi and Lidl continue to impress with retailers are delivering double digit sales growth and increasing their overall market shares by 1.4 and 0.8 percentage points respectively.

“Over the past three years Aldi and Lidl have captured a combined 3.8 share points from the competition, and have grown sales by 37 per cent in an overall grocery market which has grown by just 1 per cent,” Mr Berry said. “Conversely, Tesco and Dunnes have both experienced declines in market share and actual sales as the result of the pressure exerted by the increasingly competitive market place.”

Last month saw the grocery market’s weakest performance since September 2011 with sales declining by 0.6 per cent. Falling inflation has played a significant part in this as vegetables and bread, two important staple items, are now cheaper than they were last year.

Grocery inflation stands at 1.7 per cent for the 12 week period ending March 2nd down from 2.9 per cent over the previous 12 weeks and the lowest level since April 2012.

Galway consultants highlight a lack of intensive care resources

  The Mid Western Regional Hospital

Two Galway hospital consultants are among a group from around the country who are expressing concern about intensive care resources.

Dr. Patrick Neligan and Dr. Michael Scully, both consultants in Intensive Care Medicine at UHG have joined their counterparts from other hospitals to highlight the issue.

In a letter to an Irish Newspaper, the consultants, who are members of the Intensive Care Society of Ireland, highlight a 2008 report which showed that intensive care was below standard in Ireland.

However half way through that timeframe, the bed capacity has been significantly reduced.

The consultants feel that more resources need to be poured into intensive care facilities, otherwise there is concern that patients who are seriously ill would not be allocated a bed.


Ireland’s state consultants warn on intensive care facilities


‘Real danger’ that road traffic victims may not get an intensive-care bed, say doctors

Consultants said for any patient faced with an acute life-threatening illness, “delay in accessing intensive care units demonstrably reduces the prospect of survival”.

The State’s foremost intensive care consultants have expressed concern over the availability of resources for treating patients who need emergency medicine.

In a letter in The Irish Times today the president and the council of the Intensive Care Society of Ireland draw attention to a 2008 report, Towards Excellence in Critical Care , which found standards of care fell short of those required.

The president, Dr Patrick Seigne, a consultant with Cork University Hospital, yesterday told this newspaper the consultants who signed the letter had been reluctant “to go to the media” on the issue.

However, he said since 2008 resources in intensive care units had suffered further cuts and the situation had deteriorated. The situation was now at the point where consultants in all the main hospitals who signed the letter had “reasons to have concern for the care of patients”.

Centralised hospitals

He said intensive care facilities in “peripheral” hospitals have been closed in a centralisation move which saw no increase in resources in centralised hospitals.

Dr Seigne said there was now “a real danger” that someone seriously injured in a road traffic incident, for example, would not be allocated a bed in an intensive care unit.

He said intensive care units across the State were using resuscitation rooms in casualty departments and recovery rooms for patients who should be cared for in fully-staffed intensive care units.

In his own base of Cork University Hospital there were just 10 “general” intensive care unit beds and a further six “cardiac” intensive care unit beds. There were a further 22 intensive care beds at the hospital which were closed.

Specialist nursing staff

A significant factor in the difficulty was the availability of specialist nursing staff. He said each intensive care bed required five to six nurses to provide cover during a 24-hour period. This meant there was a very strong need for resources at a time when nurses were leaving the country for well-paid jobs in places like Bahrain. “We are training nurses for Bahrain,” he said.

Dr Seigne said part of the solution would be to immediately set up educational programmes to encourage more nurses into the field, but “salary has to be looked at”.

In the letter the consultants said the recommendation to double bed capacity by 2020 is not on track. “Half way through this timeframe bed capacity has actually been actively reduced.”

The consultants said for any patient faced with an acute life-threatening illness, “delay in accessing intensive care units demonstrably reduces the prospect of survival”.

The letter is signed by consultants at Beaumont, St James’s, the Mater, Tallaght, St Vincent’s, James Connolly, UCH Galway, the Mid-Western, CUH Cork, and Waterford Regional hospitals.

Scientists finally find what makes dark chocolate healthy


After decades of scientific inquiry, John Finley from Louisiana State University (Pic. above right) and colleagues have found what makes dark chocolate good for you according to their presentation on March 18, 2014, at the National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Dallas, Texas.

The researchers fund that Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria in the lower digestive tract love dark chocolate.

The bacteriametabolize chemical components in dark chocolate into anti-inflammatory agents that reduce cardiovascular inflammation and the risk of stroke and heart disease.

The researchers proved their concept using cocoa powder and human fecal bacteria in a glass digestive tract that simulated the human lower gut.

Cocoa powder contains antioxidants and fiber that are not acted on by digestive enzymes or digestive secretions in the upper digestive tract and are not absorbed in the upper digestive tract.

Lower digestive tract bacteria convert the antioxidants and fiber into smaller molecules that can be absorbed and used as anti-inflammatory agents and digestive regulators in the lower digestive tract.

The researchers add that eating a prebiotic like garlic can assist the bacteria that metabolize dark chocolate by increasing the rate and of conversion of anti-inflammatory agents in dark chocolate to compounds the human body can absorb.

We should keep to six teaspoons of sugar per day says Prof. O’Shea


Ireland’s top obesity expert Prof Donal O’Shea has welcomed the recommendation from the World Health Organisation (WHO) that an adult should consume a maximum of 10% of their total energy intake from sugar with added benefits if this is reduced to 5%.

He said that 5% is equivalent to around 25 grams (around six teaspoons) of sugar per day for an adult of normal Body Mass Index (BMI). For children, the amount would be much lower.

Prof Donal O’Shea, co-chair of the Royal College of Physicians’s Policy Group on on obesity said: “I am very pleased with the WHO draft guidelines. The consumption of free sugars – those added to food and drink – has soared in the last three decades and is a key target for tackling the obesity epidemic.”

He pointed out that “the amount of sugar in a standard can of coke, for example, is well in excess of this recommended intake. Energy drink and sports drinks often contain even higher levels of sugar. For example flavoured Lucozade Energy (380ml) contains 47.5 grams of sugar (approx 12 teaspoons)”.

“Free sugars are a key culprit in our current obesity epidemic. Consumption of free sugars increases overall energy intake and reduces the intake of foods containing more nutritionally adequate calories. Excess sugar also increases the risk of non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer, and dental diseases especially dental care.

“As a policy group we have previously called for the introduction of a tax on sugar sweetened drinks.

“Today’s announcement highlights the serious health issue posed by these drinks, and others products containing high levels of added sugar. The Government needs to take action on this to safeguard the health of the nation and to realise its vision of a healthy Ireland”.

It is disappointing too that such products are actively promoted by sportspeople in their capacity as role models to adults and children alike.

“Sports drinks especially are designed for athletes and sports people expending high levels of energy.

“For the rest of us, they are not recommended due to the high sugar content,” said Prof O’Shea, an endocrinologist in St Vincent’s and St Columcilles hospitals in Dublin.

Meanwhile, the Irish Dental Association has warned that a diet high in sugary, energy-dense foods has serious implications not alone for dental health but can also lead to chronic health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.

According to its President, Dr Sean Malone, half of all Irish 12-year-olds and three quarters of all 15-year-olds have some decay in their permanent teeth. This makes it the most common chronic disease children experience in Ireland.

“According to figures from the Department of Health 37pc of Irish children consume sweets once a day or more while 21pc report drinking soft drinks daily.

“There is overwhelming evidence that sugars in food and beverages are the main dietary cause of tooth decay and erosion in children and adults.

“In addition to dental decay, people who consume excess sugar suffer higher rates of heart disease and diabetes.”

How to quickly cut down on sugar in your diet

•           Cereal bar – despite their healthy image, many cereal bars can be high in sugar and fat. Look out for bars that are lower in sugar, fat and salt.

•           Chocolate – swap for a lower-calorie hot instant chocolate drink. You can also get chocolate with coffee, and chocolate with malt varieties.

•           Biscuits – swap for oatcakes, oat biscuits or unsalted rice cakes, which also provide fibre.

•           Sweets – try dried fruit such as raisins, dates, apricots or figs, which all count towards your five a day.

•           Nearly one-quarter of our added sugar in our diets comes from sugary drinks such as fizzy drinks, sweetened juices, squashes and cordials. A 500ml bottle of cola contains the equivalent of 17 cubes of sugar. Try sugar-free varieties or, better yet, water, lower-fat milk, or soda water with a splash of fruit juice.

•           If you take sugar in tea or coffee, gradually reduce the amount until you can cut it out altogether or try swapping to sweeteners instead.

•           Try some new flavours with herbal teas or make your own with hot water and a slice of lemon or ginger.

•           Don’t drink all your fruit. Like fizzy drinks, fruit juice can be high in sugar. When juice is extracted from the whole fruit to make fruit juice, sugar is released and this can cause damage to our teeth.

•           Drinking fruit juice doesn’t fill you up as much as eating fruit.

•           It takes about two-and-a-half oranges to make a glass of juice.

•           But a glass of juice isn’t as filling as eating two-and-a-half oranges because the fibre in the fruit makes you feel fuller for longer.

Ireland ranks fourth out of 30 countries for pancreatic cancer care treatment


Pancreatic cancer is known as a ‘silent killer’ as it is both difficult to detect and treat.

Ireland has been ranked fourth out of 30 surveyed countries in the first ever comparison of pancreatic cancer treatment across Europe.

The Euro Pancreatic Cancer Index (EPCI), published today by the Sweden-based research organisation Health Consumer Powerhouse (HCP), covers 30 indicators, including patient rights, information and accessibility to care, prevention, treatment outcomes, diagnostics, pharmaceuticals and palliative care.

The Netherlands comes out top with 879 of a possible 1,000 points, followed by Denmark (872), France (812), Ireland (807) and the UK in fifth position (786). Bulgaria is the lowest rated country in the index at 470 points.

In spite of causing almost as many deaths as breast cancer, pancreatic cancer is neglected by most European healthcare systems, contends the EPCI. In four out of five countries, treatment outcomes data are not monitored and there are no agreed best practice protocols in place.

There are about 370 cases of pancreatic cancer diagnosed annually in Ireland and it is the ninth most commonly diagnosed cancer here.

Ireland is one of few countries offering many of the necessary elements of relevant pancreatic cancer care, confirmed Dr Arne Bjornberg, head of HCP Index production.

Patients here are empowered and can inform themselves about treatment options, while diagnostics, outcomes, documentation and access to medicines are among the best in the surveyed countries, the index found. Despite this, however, in Ireland the average five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is only 5-6 per cent, though this matches the European and US average.

Welcoming Ireland’s positive ranking, Dr Brian Bird, consultant medical oncologist, Bon Secours Hospital Cork, said Irish patients had better access to multidisciplinary teams (in Cork and Dublin) that specialise in treating pancreatic cancer than patients in the UK. “In addition, in Irish medicine we are allowed cross refer so if a patient having a scan for back pain is found to have pancreatic cancer, they can be referred to an appropriate consultant as opposed to having to be referred back to the GP which entails delays,

Pancreatic cancer is known as a “silent killer” as it is both difficult to detect and treat. Because it causes few symptoms in its early stages, and some symptoms are quite vague (such as abdominal pain, weight loss and fatigue), correct diagnosis is frequently not made until the cancer is very advanced.

While detection remains a serious issue, recent advances in chemotherapy treatment are improving outcomes, and immunotherapy could offer patients more encouraging survival chances in the future, Dr Bird said.

Endangered primate born at Animal park zoo in England


Francois’ langurs are an endangered species native to Vietnam and China.

One of the world’s rarest primates, both in the wild and in captivity, has been born at a British zoo.

The newborn Francois’ langur is the first ever of its species be born at Howletts Wild Animal Park, near Canterbury, Kent, and is a step towards the conservation of the endangered species.

Francois’ langurs, which are listed as endangered, are born with striking red fur, which will gradually darken until they are one year old and turn black, a spokeswoman for the zoo said.

The primates live in a matriarchal group that is led by females, who share parenting duties between them.

The species is native to north-east Vietnam and southern China, where they live at a slightly higher altitude than most langurs, the spokeswoman said.

They inhabit semi-tropical monsoon forest and well-sheltered areas in limestone ranges, but because of major changes in land use the population of Francois’ langurs has diminished.

Their population in the Guangxi Province in China alone has decreased by 85% as a result of hunting and habitat loss, the zoo said.

Matt Ford, head of primates, said: “This is the first time that we have bred Francois’ langurs at Howletts so it is a very exciting and important time for us.

“We are still trying to work out the sex of the newborn Francois’ langur, as the female is a first time mother and will therefore keep the infant tucked away out of view for longer.”


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