Aussies appeal to Beijing on crucial item - Vegemite

SYDNEY Wed Apr 30, 2008 10:01am BST

A jar of the Australian spread Vegemite in New York in this October 24, 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

A jar of the Australian spread Vegemite in New York in this October 24, 2006 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

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SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Australia's Olympic athletes are appealing to Chinese authorities to let them bring an essential Australian staple with them to Beijing -- Vegemite.

With just 100 days to go until the August games, a directive that the Australian Olympic team must source all food supplies within China has been dubbed the "vegemite ban" by local media.

Vegemite, a dark, savory spread made from yeast extract, is not to everyone's taste but it is a crucial ingredient in most Australians' kitchens, used widely on toast, in sandwiches, and as a stock for cooking.

Australian Olympic team nutritionist Professor Louise Burke told the Herald Sun newspaper that having such home-grown products is crucial to the athletes' peace of mind.

"A lot of the food we are taking is not readily available in China. They do not tend to make cereals ... or the muesli bars that our athletes love," Burke said.

"We would like to take these products because they help our athletes feel at home."

The Australian Olympic Committee said it was working on getting a green light for the goods.

"We're pretty confident we'll get in what we need to for our athletes, so they can supplement their diets there," Craig Phillips, the Secretary General of the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) Craig Phillips, told local radio.

Salty-tasting Vegemite, which is said to be a good source of vitamins, has grown into an iconic food in Australia since it was invented Melbourne in the 1920s.

Made from yeast left over from beer brewing process, it is found in nine out of 10 Australian pantries, according to the About Australia Web site, which sells Australian goods online.

(Writing by Gillian Murdoch, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)

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