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Q+A: The Panel on the Kate Wilkinson interview

Published: 3:03PM Sunday September 02, 2012 Source: ONE News

GREG BOYED

Let’s talk to our panel. Fran O’Sullivan, first of all. Just on consumer feedback, just on submissions - what do you make of that?

FRAN O’SULLIVAN - New Zealand Herald Columnist

Well, I think it’s a fair deal, to be perfectly honest, and I actually just see this to being no different to, for instance, buying milk fortified with calcium or not, buying salt with iodine or not, or having water fluoridated or not. It’s one of these big issues that actually does divide consumers about when you add something into it, and I think as long as there’s choice, it’s advertised and that there is that option available, I don’t think it’s a big deal.


GREG

Bryce?

DR BRYCE EDWARDS - Political Scientist

I think the science is pretty strong on this - that there’s big benefits in having fortification in the bread, but science aside, I think this is the right decision by the government electorally, politically. Because the public is quite suspicious of this idea of mass medication, and that’s being pushed by the various industry groups. And they’ve won the day, I think, which is a bit unfortunate in some respects, because I don’t think we’ve had a thorough, informed debate on this. But nonetheless the government looks weak on this because it’s quite a pragmatic decision. It looks a bit weak. They haven’t really come out and said, ‘We think this is the right decision.’ Instead they’ve said, ‘Oh, choice.’ It looks like they’re kicking for touch, really. They could have just left this alone three years ago, because the government before them made this decision, but they’ve got themselves into all sorts of knots on this.

GREG

You’re talking about mass medication, and yet we accept fluoride in over half our water, yet we’re not going this far. What do you make of what the minister had to say?

MATT McCARTEN - Unite Union

First, I think that whole interview was bizarre. I mean-

GREG

I did my best, Matt.

MATT

Well, one of the players was bizarre. Let’s put it that way. Um, she came on here three years ago, and it didn’t seem like she really had her finger on it, and that shows that she hasn’t learnt in three years. She’s been all over the place on it, and in the end, it’s an abdication. You make decisions on science. Is it or isn’t it? And then you make a decision on that. What she’s really saying is it’s the submissions. Well, you know, the government has another policy on things like cigarettes. You know, they want to regulate. There’s certain things about saving other people’s lives. The government’s job is to actually make thoughtful decisions based on science and on risk.

FRAN

If you were going to do that, wouldn’t you give all-?

MATT

She just goes, ‘Oh, well, I just made submissions. I just made it on that.’

FRAN

Why wouldn’t you, when a woman is pregnant, just make a folic acid supplement available?

GREG

It’s too late. They have to have taken this stuff before they get pregnant. I think that’s the argument for the mandatory side of it. Having said that, Fran, just listening submissions. Don’t always listen to submissions, yet you’ve got a fairly strong scientific arguments on both sides of the coin, and she’s just gone, ‘Ah, consumer choice.’

FRAN

Well, it’s a very interesting thing. If you look at young women today, quite often they’re actually advised not to eat bread, because bread fattening, it’s carbohydrates and it’s all this stuff.

MATT

Not allowed to eating anything. Drink nothing. Do nothing. Stay inside. Life’s dangerous.

FRAN

I still don’t understand - why through bread? Why not part of whatever? I don’t know.

GREG

Is there a fear this is the thin edge of the wedge? That next we’re going to start talking about taxing fat, taxing sugar? Is that the push the industry would have been making behind the scenes, you feel?

BRYCE

The industry has won the day on this, and the industry will be trying to stop other government regulation intervention. And there is a public fear, I think, of the government saying too much, ‘You can’t do this. You can’t eat this. We’re going to make producers put everything into the food.’ I think that is quite a widespread-

MATT

But things have got to go into the food because the nutrition is being pulled out of it because it’s mass produced.

BRYCE

That’s why we need a debate about it, absolutely.

GREG

All right, guys. We will leave it there.

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