Monday, October 13, 2014

MPI's policy capture is now a threat to public health

New Zealand is currently being swept by an epidemic of severe gastroenteritis which has seen at least 127 people ill and 38 hospitalised. So, is our food regulator, the Ministry of Primary Industries, naming names so products can be withdrawn and more people don't get ill? Yeah, right:

Canterbury medical officer of health Dr Alistair Humphrey said a report from Environmental Science and Research (ESR) last Monday identified bagged lettuce and carrots from one particular supermarket chain as the source of the bug.

"Everybody involved in this work, including MPI, ESR, all the public health units and the Ministry of Health, have seen the results of the ESR study, which is quite clear. It is unequivocal and it does name the types of food that have led to this problem and it also names one particular product."

MPI had asked public health officials to keep the products and the supermarket's name a secret, he said.

People's lives and health are at risk here. And MPI is still more concerned about protecting the profits of supermarkets and suppliers than it is about our health.

As Dr Humphrey points out, this highlights the big problem with MPI: we think they're a regulator, but they think they're there to promote the industry. They've been totally captured by the industry they're supposed to be regulating. That's bad enough when they're blocking progress on clean water or climate change, but in this case, where people's lives and health are directly at risk, its appalling.

We're not Americans. We expect our regulators to protect us, not launch cover-ups for industry. MPI needs to name names - after which it needs to be thoroughly cleaned out and its staff replaced with those who work for us, not farmers.