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Thursday, 4 September 2014

Who put the Fox in charge of the Henhouse? Dirty Politics contaminates the food supply.

Those of my readers from outside New Zealand might be interested in this local story. Especially you Australians.

It starts here:
Katherine Rich, a former National party MP, now the chief executive of the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council, an industry lobby groupis on the advisory board responsible for the health star rating system. For some reason the N.Z. Government takes the position that we can only counter diet-related ill health by paying the food industry to do something about it on their own terms.

This kind of assumes some basic honesty and interest in science on their part. Instead, we get this:

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Katherine Rich, in her role as pretend responsible person working with government (and presumably collecting pay for that), can't attack the anti-sugar lobby as virulently as she'd like, so hires blogger Cameron Slater (wide following, no morals) to do it for her.

Meanwhile, she's on the board overseeing the Health Star food labeling system, which is more industry reps (Unilever, Nestles, etc.) than scientists. As wikipedia says:

Emails leaked to political writer Nicky Hager claim that Rich, in her role as Chief Executive of the Food and Grocery Council, has while on the board of the Health Promotion Agency (a Crown entity) fed prominent blogger, Cameron Slater, with posts that denigrate individuals in academia and the media who report on news or support health initiatives inimical to the interests of the food, alcohol, tobacco and soft drink industries. The posts have been published as if by Slater himself on his blog Whale Oil Beef Hooked as recently as February 2014.
Here is Whale Oil's "soft drink" archive, if you want to see what your tax dollars have been paying for.  These are the people our government thinks it can work with.
Actually, Slater is someone the National Government already works with; the bigger fish of the Whale Oil saga are the Prime Minister (or his office, no-one's sure how much he even knows what's going on), and the Justice Minister, Slater's closest friend in power, who has already fallen on her sword. The Katherine Rich Health Star business is a minor part of the scandal to most people.
Here's what she paid Slater to say about the soda tax:


The question is rather clumsy. Imagine the result if they had asked “Do you think it is a good idea to tax ALL Kiwis with a sugar tax, increasing food and drink prices across the board, when it is only fat bastards who should be taxed?”. 

These are the people our government puts in charge of your health when you shop.
Blogger the Jackal has the wider story and a link to
the emails here.
Direct download here:

Slater is in the tradition of the scurrilous and venal Restoration pamphleteer, selling spicy stories about the enemies of his patrons. He's kind of admirable in his whole-hearted and public commitment to turpitude. And sometimes the Slater/Graham/Rich hydra comes up with lines like:

So long as the health nazis promote the food pyramid that is heavy on carbohydrates and low on proteins then we will continue to get fatter, especially if we don't exercise to burn those calorie loadings. Taxing sugars and fats won’t work.   

Nice try, but it still doesn't buy my trust.

P.S. Katherine Rich is also on the Health Promotion Agency board. This is more balanced than the Health Star food labeling board, on the HPA board Rich is the only industry rep. And AUT's own Grant Schofield is on the HPA board. Should make for interesting meetings. 


Anonymous said...

I naively thought this star system had been dropped. Pity.

There were similar shenanigans and conflicts of interest on this side of the ditch too, if my memory serves me.

I see you can download a calculator from here -

Is in one of the many links on right hand side. looks pretty shitty - I assume they paid some idiot a fortune to put it together.

You can't beat a politician when it comes to finding new ways to flush good money.

have a good weekend.

tess said...

industry reps setting official policy -- "ve invented dem, you know!" (...I assume you heard those Cold-War-era jokes in your part of the world, between the US and USSR, George?)

Puddleg said...

NZ had aggressively neutral cold war policy, so I may have missed a few...

Puddleg said...

This just in - public health scientists' letter of protest against Katherine Rich being on HPA board