Conspiracies theories, spin doctors, whistleblowers, power and leverage everything but lust

Like a phenomenal amount of people I am addicted to the TV show “House of Cards”

The more I watch it the more I question why. The main character Frank Underwood is so evil and so Machiavellian each new episode of the show depresses me more. On reflection  I think I watch it to remind me that ‘fair is never equal” and I need to toughen up.

As I watched it yesterday this story popped up on my twitter feed Hoping to Kill off Competitor Parmalat goes after A2 Milk. It caught my attention  as I found myself in the middle of the controversy after The Australian picked up content in my post  A2 snake oil merchants in the firing line.

My goodness doesn’t this story in The Age have everything. Whistle-blowers, conspiracy theories (even Dairy Australia gets a mention), secret meetings, controversial spin doctors and the best one of all it appears to be promoting scientific theories that have no sound science behind them.

Are they saying Malcolm Riley  Head of Nutritional Research at CSIRO’s Animal, Food and Health Sciences division in Adelaide doesn’t know what he is talking about? Surely I have misunderstood???

Malcolm Riley, head of nutritional research at CSIRO’s Animal, Food and Health Sciences division in Adelaide, said some claims made about A2 milk — not all promoted publicly, however, by its manufacturer, the A2 Corporation — were staggering, extending to the cure and prevention of heart disease, asthma, eczema, schizophrenia, diabetes and even autism.

“These are such serious claims that if they were true, everyone would switch to drinking A2 milk, but the scientific evidence and the trials in humans just aren’t there now,” he said yesterday. Source Sue Neales
The Australian April 05, 2014

Well I have had a few whistleblowers contact me since The Age and the SMH released their David and Goliath victim stories

I am now led to believe that the A2 corporation is spending big money on a White Knight rescuer PR company and have I believe engaged ( I won’t say controversial because I have no idea what The Age used as their definition of controversial) the very interesting Ian Smith who is the driving force behind Bespoke Approach — a boutique lobbying firm.

As I don’t move in these circles and his name was unfamiliar to me I did a Google search and this was what I found

Bespoke was established by Ian Smith, one of the more plugged-in political and business consultants in the nation, the chief executive officer of the high-powered public relations firm Gavin Anderson and Company (Australia) and former chief adviser to Jeff Kennett when Kennett was Victorian premier.

This conservative insider also happens to be married to former Australian Democrats leader Natasha Stott Despoja. Source

And believe it or not this content from a previous piece in The Age

“He loves political leverage and has an ability to insert himself into power situations … Ian Kortlang [a well-known PR consultant] used to say that for Smithy it’s all about lust, leverage and dollars.”

Bespoke may not have one of the longest client lists but it does have one of the most impressive. We’re talking about big companies with big issues on their plate: Woodside Energy, Petrochina (the world’s second largest company by market capitalisation), Huweiwei Technologies (the world’s second largest exporter of telecom equipment), coal giant Xstrata and beer behemoth Fosters.

“The magnitude of the issues and the quality of the client book is something I’m particularly proud of,” Smith says. Read more here

Well I didn’t notice any ‘lust’ in this story but ‘leverage and dollars’ do come to mind and apparently the A2 corporation may just have big issues on their plate or in a glass in this case

This is my perspective.  This is not a story about

Parmalat vs. A2 Corporation

Goliath vs. David

Big vs. little

Its a story about

Fairfax vs. Murdoch

Big PR vs. Big PR

Lactose free milk vs.Perceived lactose free milk

Real science vs. flawed science

All milk is good for you vs  perceived  A2 milk is better for you

I am fascinated by this interesting quote in The Australia from the A2 Corporation

“We are good at marketing but we are also evangelical about the product”

Yes I will agree A2 you are very good at marketing but evangelical oh my goodness that’s a bit scary Definition here

I have said my piece. The only thing that I am interested in is I know the science behind A2 being better for you is flawed and until A2 have credible independent scientific research to back up the claims that A2 milk has any extra or ­superior health attributes at all they can do clever marketing, hire all the spin doctors in the world and be as evangelistic as they like but I will remain dubious about their product.  .

Now time to move on to more important matters

Disclosure statement

I was owner operator of a dairy farm business that supplied Parmalat and Dairy Farmers

Parmalat is a sponsor of Art4Agriculture

Art4Agriculture is a network of young people who share a passion to tell others about the pivotal role Australian farmers play in feeding the world. Mostly we are young rural people who love working in agriculture, be it in the beef, sheep, dairy, cropping, wine or horticultural industries. With our ‘home-base’ in the Illawarra region of NSW, Art4Agriculture reaches into many different communities around the nation.
Art4Agriculture has a vision for agriculture that is full of promise.
We want an innovative exciting dynamic and profitable agrifood sector. A sector that our next generation best and brightest sees as a career of first choice.
We see our role is to turn our vision for agriculture into everyone’s vision
To achieve this Art4Agriculture delivers events and activities which focus on youth, career opportunities, the environment, community and the arts – all linked with agriculture.

Our programs are tailored to both enhance the image of farmers and farming and encourage young people to consider agriculture related careers.

Our school programs are education and awareness focused and use creative arts and multimedia to engage urban and rural students in the challenges of feeding, clothing and housing the world with a declining natural resource base.

A2 Milk snake oil merchants in the firing line

I am a bit a crusader and this week the snake oil phenomenon is on my radar.

Little bit of background

Every parent sweats the nine months their child is in the womb waiting for the moment the child is born and doctor says “we’ve got five fingers and five toes”

When that doesn’t happen parents tend to go into overdrive and investigate every piece of science and technology to provide the best possible life for their child. Sometimes their love takes them into the unproven science behind cure-alls.

When I was born I had five fingers and toes but about 6 months down the track it became clear that for me everything wasn’t clear, in fact my world was very blurry. On top of this there seemed to be some serious problems with my legs.

So my parents moved heaven and earth to get the best possible science and technology to fix their little girl and they (and me) in the main where rewarded for their efforts

But despite many, many operations, visits to doctors/specialists, eye patches etc. etc. their little girl would always wear glasses and that made them sad.

lynne-strong-flowergirlls_thumb

I think I was about 3 when this photo was taken. Pink dress, pink glasses, pink everything. No doubt about it if I had to wear glasses my mother always made sure I did it with style. Can you believe 50 years later those cats eye glasses are back in fashion.  

Wearing glasses in those days wasn’t trendy and every new (proven) thing that came along they made sure I was first in line to take every advantage. On hard contact lenses, soft contact lenses, throw away contact lenses a small fortune was spent but it wasn’t to be glasses became a fixture of my life for 5 plus decades.

But this has all changed. For the past 12 months my eyesight had been rapidly deteriorating, my eyes where really sore and I had permanent headaches. After spending 5 plus decades knowing what is was like to be blind by just taking my glasses off I was starting to get pretty frightened. Having spent my childhood in more hospitals that most people have been in their lifetime I tend to avoid hospitals and doctors like the plague. So I kept putting of the investigative procedures that would get to the bottom of my diminishing eyesight.

But sometimes when you bite the bullet it can lead to good news. I wasn’t going blind I had cataracts (though of course cataract can lead to blindness) Today modern technology means that people with cataracts can often get 20:20 vision. Though I am still finding it hard to believe my cataract operation has given me 20:20 vision in one eye and John and Robyn’s little girl doesn’t have to wear glasses anymore (beyond the “chemist glasses” – and yes I bought the cats eye frames – for reading)

Now when the specialist told me the result I cried with happiness and sadness. Sadness because Robyn died four years ago and she would never know. My mother and I never really got on but she would have been the first person I rang to tell this news because above all I knew she loved me very much and it would have made her the happiest person on the planet.

Now what does all this have to do with the snake oil phenomenon. Well my parents took the high road and followed science and science delivered for them.

This doesn’t always happen and in these cases parents often turn to the unproven and I for one am not going to judge them for that. Everybody who has had a child knows they become your life’s work.

But when I see websites like this The Food Intolerance Network that make claims that A2 milk is a cure-all for almost every evil under the sun, including apparently autism it makes me really cranky.

Now A2 milk is definitely trendy and sales are on the rise and if you happen to have cows with A2 DNA they definitely sell at a premium I can vouch for that.

But the evidence is all anecdotal yet this website quotes this study

There is a medical report of allergies managed by camel milk, which also contains a2 beta casein protein. In this study, eight children with severe food (mainly milk) allergies recovered fully from their allergies by drinking camel milk.

Mmh Camel milk, eight study participants I rest my case

I don’t have a problem with A2 milk per se. If I need to buy milk and A2 just happens to have the longest dating and I need milk with long dating I will buy it but that is the only reason.

Milk is good for you. There is no scientific evidence to say A2 is better than any other milk and its certainly no worse than other milks and I have no problem with it having a place in the supermarket fridge. But as a cure-all it is in the quackery aisle.

It’s time for the quacks and snake oil merchants to leave the room and lets all hope it doesn’t take 5 plus decades to find a genuine scientific positive outcome for autism because I have seen the pain first hand and it is just morally wrong to give people false hope

What the Checkout has to say

Kristen gives A2 milk a B minus for science