In a “crisis”, perspective is often the last thing thought of

Yesterday’s Herald actually got something right. John Roughan’s article was spot on when he wrote:

Somehow the precautionary element of the announcement was completely lost in the frenzy that followed. Amid all the reports of fearful parents and foreign trade embargoes I for one had missed the fact that the bacterium they had detected might not be clostridium botulinum.

Good point – the recall was always precautionary. But that didn’t stop officials flipping out.

In a crisis, usually the first question asked is has anyone died. That should be the first question Ministers would want to know. Perhaps this skipped most bureaucrats minds when all and sundry started a global panic.

One example of this was MPI, under Acting DG Scott Gallacher. Whoops. But at least he’s taken responsibility for AgResearch.

Another example was the Ministry of Health. You would have thought someone was bright enough in their comms team to point out that there had been no cases in the world where infant botulism had been linked to infant formula. None, nada, nought, zip, zilch.   

HONEY-300x400

Honey is the only known dietary reservoir of C. botulinum spores linked to infant botulism.

Maybe the health officials in charge would have then pointed out that out of 7 billion people on the planet, the number one cause of infant botulism (about 150 cases per year) is…. wait for it… from dust. And the ONLY known dietary reservoir of C. botulinum spores is honey.

Honey is the only known dietary reservoir of C. botulinum spores linked to infant botulism. For this reason honey should not be fed to infants less than one year of age.[12] Other cases of infant botulism are thought to be caused by acquiring the spores from the natural environment. Clostridium botulinum is a ubiquitous soil-dwelling bacterium. Many infant botulism patients have been demonstrated to live near a construction site or an area of soil disturbance.

Infant botulism has been reported in 49 of 50 US states,[11] and cases have been recognized in 26 countries on five continents.

So world officials were extremely misguided in blocking imports of milk powder, when they would have been better banning American honey.

Then, just to calm the nerves, an official might have popped up and said the sort of spores causing human botulism are NOT found in NZ soils – the sort found in NZ soils affects… wait for it again… birds.

We know the MOH is arse covering when they say clostridia botulinum is “found in the environment” around the world, but there’s no mention that the sorts harmful to mankind are NOT in New Zealand soils. Whoops.

On the current performance, the bureaucrats should be setting up health alerts for bubonic plague, typhoid or rabies. On this basis NZ parents should be racing off to their GPs.

That should really give Kaye, Guy, Groser, Joyce real reason to celebrate.


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