Professor of Farm Management and Agribusiness - Keith Woodford Professor of Farm Management and Agribusiness - Keith Woodford CREDIT:

Food Safety Authority is totally compromised – independent inquiry called for

Tuesday 18 September 2007, 10:42AM
By Freelance Publicist Kathryn Carmody


The New Zealand Food Safety Authority is totally compromised by its handling of issues surrounding A1 and A2 milk. The Authority is in a state of denial, and keeps making false statements. There is now an urgent need for an independent inquiry,’ says Professor Keith Woodford.

‘There is an obvious conflict within the NZFSA between the two roles of facilitating access to markets for New Zealand’s food products and the requirement to monitor food safety’, he says.

Professor Woodford is a Lincoln University agribusiness lecturer and the author of a book released last week, "Devil in the Milk: Illness, health and politics, A1 and A2 milk."

NZFSA Policy Director Carole Inkster has been forthright in the last week stating ‘there is no food safety issue with either type of milk’ and claiming that Professor Woodford’s book ‘is not backed by scientific evidence’. Subsequent to making this claim in a NZFSA press release, Inkster admitted on television that she had not read the book.

Professor Woodford’s book amasses evidence from more than 100 scientific papers. These papers include the human epidemiology, the human trials, and the animal trials, together with the biochemistry, pharmacology and immunology of the ‘milk devil’ that is released from A1 beta -casein. It is also notable that human milk is of the A2 type.

There is now a huge amount of compelling evidence which explains why Type 1 diabetes and heart disease is so much higher in countries which have a high intake of A1 beta-casein. There is no doubt that the protein fragment beta-casomorphin7 (the ‘milk devil’) is a strong opiate. We are fortunate that for most people this fragment is unable to get through from the intestines to the blood stream. But there are many people with a range of intestinal conditions for which this is possible. And young babies always have a permeable intestine to allow the colostrum molecule through. It is also notable that many of the symptoms of autism are linked to this protein fragment.

Inkster relies on the supposed findings from Professor Swinburn’s report to the NZFSA in 2004. However Professor Swinburn has been very clear on Radio New Zealand National’s ‘Nine to Noon’ on 14 September 2007 that he never used the word ‘safe’ in his report and that this was very purposeful. Also, there is considerable further evidence now available.

Inkster said on television (Close-up, 13 September 2007) that if there had been further developments since 2004 then Professor Swinburn would have informed the Food Authority and that the Authority was in regular contact with Swinburn. However Professor Swinburn has confirmed on Radio New Zealand National that he has been out of this field of research for several years. Swinburn has argued strongly that further research is needed and that switching herds to A2 would be a pain free solution.

NZFSA keeps giving different reasons as to why the Swinburn Lay Summary for non scientists was withheld in 2004. At the time Inkster said on Radio New Zealand National that ‘there’s nothing that’s being held back. The full text of the report is in the public arena.’ When presenter Kevin Ikin asked ‘and that includes the Lay Summary?’ she replied ‘No it doesn’t include the Lay Summary because it didn’t add anything’.

Subsequently, NZFSA official Carol Barnao wrote to Professor Woodford, when releasing the document under an Official Information Act request, that the Lay Summary was not previously released because ‘we feel that the tone is inconsistent with the substantive report’.

Subsequently Inkster has claimed that they did not release the Lay summary because they had not commissioned it. However Professor Swinburn has been very explicit on Radio New Zealand National (4 Sept 2007) that he was requested by NZFSA to provide it. And now Inkster has claimed to NZPA ‘what we do with the report that we commissioned is really our business’.

In that Lay Summary Professor Swinburn said things such as ‘the A1/A2 hypothesis is potentially very important for public health’. He said ‘it should be taken seriously and further research is needed’. Also, ‘appropriate government agencies have a responsibility to communicate the current state of evidence to the public’.

By not releasing the Lay Report, until forced to do by Professor Woodford’s OIA request, NZFSA effectively kept this away from the media until the issue had gone stale. The public was never informed and no research was commissioned.

And now, The NZFSA continues to control information. Professor Woodford states that he has had a request with NZFSA for further disclosure of information for 38 working days, despite the legislative requirement for NZFSA to respond within 20 working days. As of 17 September Carole Inkster has advised Woodford that that she expects to ‘sign off’ on some of the material by later this week. However, Inkster also advised that correspondence between NZFSA and other organisations is unlikely to be provided at this time. This correspondence is crucial in understanding the way NZFSA operates with industry.

‘The time has come for the NZFSA to be required to release all of its information as required by the Official Information Act. NZFSA must stop acting in a partisan fashion and address the statutory food safety issues,’ says Professor Woodford, ‘There has to be an independent inquiry into NZFSA operations’.