Going public: Embrace it; supermarket x’ and the ethics of food risk disclosure

I figured out about 45 years ago that going public was the best way to handle conflict.

I was throwing stones at the grill of a car in an abandoned lot in Brantford, Ontario (that’s in Canada), trying out cigarettes for the first time, and we got caught.

When I was 18-years-old, and went to jail, I had nothing to hide.

All incoming inmates had to strip naked in front of some deliberately inattentive guard, as part of admission.

There was nothing left to hide, and there isn’t now.

I know lots of people who hide behind their vanity; I know few whom are truly public, warts and all.

Whether it’s some academic institution or a local hockey club, bring it on; your rumors only ferment your own failures.

Julia Glotz of The Grocer in the UK writes that in the hepatitis E outbreak, supermarket X is Tesco.

Julia is referring to explosive claims that, as initially reported by the Sunday Times, hepatitis E is sickening Brits at an alarming rate.

But that didn’t stop Public Health England from sticking its fingers in its ears and loudly singing ‘la la la’ for the best part of a week. It didn’t want to name ‘supermarket x’ because the findings of its hepatitis E study do ‘not infer blame on the supermarket’.

Oh okay. Fair enough. I see the strategy here. So instead of some uncomfortable articles about a possible link between hep E infections and retail pork products, we’re going for a week of near-hysterical coverage shouting Silence On Banger Virus, and insinuating an agency tasked with protecting public health is refusing to drop a big supermarket in it. What must these brutes at Tesco be doing to poor PHE to force it into silence? Round of applause, everyone.

Anyway, the kitty is now firmly out of the bag, so it’s time to reflect on some lessons from the whole saga. After all, hepatitis E is far from the only food scandal in town right now. And, in PHE’s defence, this is really tricky territory. Risk communication is notoriously hard, and informing the public about risks related to food can be especially thorny. Food regulators and agencies across the globe struggle with it.

Doug Powell, a former professor of food safety who runs the wonderfully named BarfBlog (yes, it’s about people getting sick from dodgy food), has an entire section on his website called ‘Going public’. In it, he chronicles example after example of public disclosure foul-ups from food regulators around the world: vague press releases rushed out after hours; vital information made available too late for the sake of double, triple and quadruple checking; and bare facts and stats dumped on the public without context to help them make sense of risk.

Powell is also the co-author of a fascinating article published in the Journal of Environmental Health earlier this year, which examines how regulators approach public comms during food scares. It concludes there is widespread confusion – and hugely varying standards – largely because there is little concrete guidance on food risk disclosure. Too many decisions are made ad hoc; what little guidance there is is couched in flabby, unhelpful language like ‘timely release of information’, without defining what ‘timely’ means.

So does that mean PHE should have named Tesco right from the start? Not necessarily. Its study did not establish that Tesco products were the direct cause of hepatitis infections; it was a statistical analysis only. There are valid concerns about the potential for premature information to mislead consumers and do significant harm (though it’s worth pointing out Powell’s report found no evidence to support a paternalistic approach where members of the public are protected from ‘too much’ information). ‘Naming and shaming’ of individual companies could potentially distract consumers from other, more important information about how they can protect themselves. Might a shopper who doesn’t buy ham and sausages at Tesco, for example, tune out and not pay attention to cooking advice to minimise the risk of hepatitis E infections?

It’s a fair question. So by all means don’t name names in your scientific paper. But accept that a paper like it will very likely get media pick-up – and once it’s out in the public domain, the game is up. You have to come clean. “To support consumer decision making, available information must support what consumers want and need to know, which might or might not be what information authorities want to relay,” Powell writes in his JEH article. And in this case, consumers wanted to know who ‘supermarket x’ was.

“While PHE may have reasons for not going public – whether legislative or bureaucratic – whoever is involved will eventually be found out,” Powell added when I caught up with him about the case this week. “Trust is earned, not given, and consumers have a right to know – especially if it’s a public health issue like hepatitis E in pork.”

 It’s not all down to the regulators, though. Industry, too, has a part to play in this. If there’s any risk to public health, information disclosure must be led by the relevant agencies, says Chris Elliott of the Institute for Global Food Security. But when there is no (or a very remote chance) of a food safety problem, “then I think supermarket x should take the lead in the comms,” he adds. “But this should be agreed with the regulator, so no contradiction or confusion should result.”

It’s undoubtedly a difficult balance to get right. In Powell’s article, the killer line comes from epidemiologist Paul Mead: “Food safety recalls are always either too early or too late. If you’re right, it’s always too late. If you’re wrong, it’s always too early.”

So yes, it can be a poisoned chalice. But regulators can’t dodge it – and they have to start dealing with it more assuredly than they often do at the moment. 

Going public: Early disclosure of food risks for the benefit of public health

Mar.17

NEHA, Volume 79.7, Pages 8-14

Benjamin Chapman, Maria Sol Erdozaim, Douglas Powell

http://www.neha.org/node/58904

Often during an outbreak of foodborne illness, there are health officials who have data indicating that there is a risk prior to notifying the public. During the lag period between the first public health signal and some release of public information, there are decision makers who are weighing evidence with the impacts of going public. Multiple agencies and analysts have lamented that there is not a common playbook or decision tree for how public health agencies determine what information to release and when. Regularly, health authorities suggest that how and when public information is released is evaluated on a case-by-case basis without sharing the steps and criteria used to make decisions. Information provision on its own is not enough. Risk communication, to be effective and grounded in behavior theory, should provide control measure options for risk management decisions. There is no indication in the literature that consumers benefit from paternalistic protection decisions to guard against information overload. A review of the risk communication literature related to outbreaks, as well as case studies of actual incidents, are explored and a blueprint for health authorities to follow is provided.

Whole genome sequencing PR in Australia

In a press release story that oozes with promotional fanfare, foodborne illnesses caused by bugs such as salmonella could be cut by a third in NSW within five years, with food and health authorities adding a “revolutionary” tool to their arsenal.

NSW Health and NSW Food Authority have started using whole genome sequencing technology to more quickly identify a foodborne outbreak and connect it with its source, which could reduce illnesses and even deaths.

“[It’s] a significant breakthrough that could help revolutionise how food-borne illnesses are identified, understood, tracked and managed,” said Dr Craig Shadbolt, the Food Authority’s acting chief executive.

“This will be invaluable in terms of achieving the NSW Government’s Food Safety Strategy goal of reducing foodborne illnesses caused by salmonella, campylobacter and listeria by 30 per cent by 2021.”

That sounds nice, but some practical steps, like not using raw eggs in mayo, aoili, or baked Chinese ice cream, would go farther. In Australia, rates of foodborne salmonella poisoning have climbed from 38 per 100,000 people in 2004 to 76 per 100,000 in 2016, with a record-breaking 18,170 cases last year, according to the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System.

A table of raw-egg-based outbreaks in Australia is available at: http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/raw-egg-related-outbreaks-australia-5-1-17.xlsx-

Can blockchain reduce foodborne illness (and save cash for retailers)?

A consortium of big-food types including Dole, Unilever, Walmart, Golden State Foods, Kroger, Nestle, Tyson Foods, McLane Company, and McCormick and Company – along with IBM, has announced plans to cut down on the time it takes to pinpoint the source of foodborne illness and eradicate it.

But, according to Coin Desk, unlike many other blockchain groups that have launched over the years, the consortium is formally launching with a fully integrated enterprise-grade platform, according to Walmart’s vice president of food safety, Frank Yiannas.

“IBM has spent a lot of time coding and creating a real product that you can start using,” said Yiannas. “There’s legitimate framework and substance in terms of the product, the technology that’s available. It’s substantial and real.”

If successful, the project, which will extend Walmart’s own custom blockchain proof-of-concept for food safety and traceability to the other partners, stands to cut down on the time it takes to track down dangerous food from weeks to just seconds.

Drawing on multiple IBM pilots in production, the consortium then aims to identify and prioritize different ways that distributed ledger tech can save global food suppliers money via increased traceability of their products.

The resulting efficiencies could not only reduce the revenue lost from unnecessarily pulling of safe food from shelves, but also spur a drop in the number of deaths blamed on toxic food in the first place.

“We’re all in the business of trying to improve the quality of life of people that we serve around the world,” he said. “So, on these issues, it’s pre-competitive.”

But while there’s a philanthropic element to the work, the result of delays in identifying dangerous food can also hit deep into a food supplier bottom lines.

During a demo of the enterprise-grade application, IBM’s vice-president of blockchain business development, Brigid McDermott, broke down into three categories what she said were the global financial costs of current supply-chain tracking inefficiencies.

The first, which drives the most cost, is the human loss of health and life.

For example, earlier this month, a salmonella outbreak traced back to contaminated papaya fruit was blamed for infecting 173 people, leading to 58 hospitalizations and one death, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report. On average, 420,000 people die each year from food poisoning, according to the World Health Organization.

The second and third costs of supply-chain inefficiencies result from the potential threat to the health of consumers, according to McDermott.

Specifically, she said the cost of recalling a tainted good is typically footed largely by the offending producer. But when identifying the dangerous items can take weeks, prices can drop and people will frequently stop buying the product altogether, resulting in a financial cost to the proprietors of even the safest products.

These losses can be so costly that recent estimates on the total economic impact of foodborne illnesses on the U.S. economy alone have varied between as low as about $4.4 billion per year to as high as $93.2 billion.

Following what was largely deemed a successful test of tracking pork sales in China and mangos in the U.S., Yiannas realized the limits of being able to identify dangerous food within its own supply chain, if others were still using the traditional system to trace the food to its origin.

While competitors and even other members of the same supply chain took weeks to identify the source of the problem, global prices of the food frequently plummeted, resulting in losses to the entire industry that could sometimes take years to fully recover from.

So, after the early Walmart tests were complete, IBM Blockchain general manager Marie Wieck said she was contacted by the company with a new problem: to help form a collective of industry players, representing more than just different aspects of the supply chain, but potentially competing aspects of the supply chain.

Wieck explained how crucial the wider network is if you want to do more than just identify the source of the problem, adding, “You need the entire industry network to start engaging in order to be able to do both the proof that you can trace back to the farm, but then have the entire supply chain address it.”

Yiannas added, “If you’re a food safety guy who’s been doing this for 30 years, the power of how much information is at your fingertips is really impressive and exciting.”

Food safety is every day (and every meal)

The world does not need a food safety day.

It needs day-in-day-out commitment.

The United Nations‘ General Assembly will discuss in Sept. whether to establish a World Food Safety Day.

The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization has already adopted a draft resolution that puts the wheels in motion for this international day. The resolution has been forwarded to the secretary-general of the United Nations so that it can be added to the organization’s September agenda. If the resolution passes through the General Assembly, World Food Safety Day would be set for June 7 of each year, the F.A.O. says.

World Food Safety Day would “raise awareness of the global threat posed by foodborne diseases and reinforce the need for governments, the food industry, and individuals to do more to make food safe and prevent these diseases,” said Ren Wang, director of F.A.O.’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Protection.

The draft resolution clearly states that “there is no food security without food safety, and that in a world where the food supply chain has become global, any food safety incident has global negative effects on public health, trade, and the economy.”

Goats are ruminants, they secretly harbor dangerous E. coli: Goat Yoga in Conneticut should not be a thing

Goat yoga is a thing – people do yoga with goats on them – but a town in Conneticut has ordered Aussakita Acres Farms to stop.

Town officials say mixing livestock and meditative exercise is not allowed and have ordered farm owners to stop the sessions. The farmers say they will not stop, so the confrontation will continue at least through the end of the month, when a zoning board of appeals hearing is scheduled.

For the past several weeks, guests at the 5.6-acre farm have paid $25 each to do the “downward dog” and other yoga moves while small goats clamber on their backs, nuzzle their faces and occasionally pee on their mats. The farm in the town’s northeastern corner runs a total of four, hour-long sessions on weekends, and classes average 48 participants, farm co-owner Tracy Longoria said Monday.

Through the plan of conservation and development, Manchester leaders have encouraged the town’s few remaining farmers to diversify, and that’s what she and her partner have done, Longoria said. Aussakita (a pairing of two popular dog breed names) offers duck eggs, pet pigs, alpaca fur, close encounters with miniature llamas – and for the past several weeks, yoga with goats. It’s all part of surviving as a Connecticut farmer, Longoria says.

A cease and desist order issued on July 26 says the activity violates rules on allowed uses in “rural residence” zones. A special exception approval or variance would be required, Zoning Enforcement Officer Jim Davis wrote in the order. Failure to comply with the order, Davis wrote, could result in fines of up to $2,500 per violation. The zoning board of appeals has scheduled a public hearing on the issue for Aug. 30.

 

Who wants to market lousy food: Food safety and promotion, yes they go together

Ron Doering, the creator of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and its first president, writes in this column for Food in Canada that, in a recent column I wrote on the occasion of the 20th birthday of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), I proudly concluded that the CFIA had mostly met its original objectives. Since then I have received several responses from industry leaders suggesting I was overly generous in my assessment. Several responses focused particularly on one complaint: that too many at the CFIA seemed to have forgotten that in addition to its primary role to protect the health and safety of Canadians, the CFIA also has a clear legislative mandate to help the commercial linterests of Canadian industry.

From the very beginning of the 1995 consultations with industry, all sectors expressed grave concern that while con­solidating 16 programs delivered by four different departments might promote efficiency and effectiveness and provide a single point of contact for consumers, industry and the provinces, such consolida­tion might also result in an erosion of the longstanding understanding that while safe food was the overarching priority, all programs also had an important role in promoting the commercial health of the various sectors. To answer this fear, we changed the draft legislation to specify that the minister responsible for the CFIA would be the minister of Agriculture, and we built right into the legislation that the CFIA’s mandate included the “promotion of trade and commerce.” Without this solemn promise to industry, it’s unlikely that the CFIA would have been created.

Of course, except in situations where consumer health and safety is threatened, such as in a case of an outbreak of foodborne illness, inspecting for safe food and promoting market access are not conflicting objectives. The most important marketing advantage for the Canadian food industry is Canada’s repu­tation for safe food and the credibility of our rigorous regulatory system. Putting the whole food chain — seeds, feeds, fertilizer, plant protection, animal health, and all food commodities including fish — under the same umbrella agency created a real opportunity for a more comprehensive and focused approach to promoting international market access for Canadian products. Moreover, still unique in the world, we would have one agency to negotiate equivalency agree­ments and other arrangements for access. Many products can only be exported if they first receive CFIA certification. That is how we export food, plants and animals to over 100 countries, usually without re-inspection.

After raising this issue in my speech at the recent annual meeting of the Canadian Meat Council, many participants confirmed the problem and stressed that it has been seriously worsening in the last three years since the Conservative govern­ment changed the primary reporting relationship of the CFIA to the minister of Health. One industry leader insisted that it was obvious that since then “the CFIA is giving less time, resources and attention to industry’s commercial needs.” Another reported that “most CFIA inspectors now seem to think their sole job is consumer protection, and market access is just not part of their job.” Another added that “increasingly, and particularly in the last few years, the culture of the CFIA is that they’re in the public health business; the health of the industry is none of their concern.”

There is a great deal of talk these days about the potential for Canada to be an agri-food powerhouse. Canadians can’t eat much more food, so the key is to increase exports. Our industry is up to the task, but the agri-food business (unlike many other industry sectors) cannot even begin to achieve its potential unless the government does its job to:

  1. Provide a clear, responsive and well implemented regulatory system that will serve to improve competitiveness, enhance investment and promote innovation; and
  2. Remind the CFIA that it is also its responsibility to help industry gain greater market access and then adequately resource this function.

Meat industry leaders tell me that they have already met the new CFIA president and stressed the need to change attitudes and to reinvigorate the market access function. This is a good start, but real progress will require a united and sustained push.

Food fraud: Inside global bullshit about spices

A bowl of ice cream on a hot day in Shanghai gave American Mitchell Weinberg the worst bout of food poisoning he can recall. It also inspired the then-trade consultant to set up Inscatech — a global network of food spies.

In demand by multinational retailers and food producers, Inscatech and its agents scour supply chains around the world hunting for evidence of food industry fraud and malpractice. In the eight years since he founded the New York-based firm, Weinberg, 52, says China continues to be a key growth area for fraudsters as well as those developing technologies trying to counter them.

“Statistically we’re uncovering fraud about 70 percent of the time, but in China it’s very close to 100 percent,” he said. “It’s pervasive, it’s across food groups, and it’s anything you can possibly imagine.”

While adulteration has been a bugbear of consumers since prehistoric wine was first diluted with saltwater, scandals in China over the past decade — from melamine-laced baby formula, to rat-meat dressed as lamb — have seen the planet’s largest food-producing and consuming nation become a hotbed of corrupted, counterfeit, and contaminated food.

Weinberg’s company is developing molecular markers and genetic fingerprints to help authenticate natural products and sort genuine foodstuffs from the fakes. Another approach companies are pursuing uses digital technology to track and record the provenance of food from farm to plate.

“Consumers want to know where products are from,” said Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group, citing surveys the Shanghai-based consultancy conducted with consumers and supermarket operators.

Services that help companies mitigate the reputational risk that food-fraud poses is a “big growth area,” according to Rein. “It’s a great business opportunity,” he said. “It’s going to be important not just as a China play, but as a global play, because Chinese food companies are becoming part of the whole global supply chain.”

Some of the biggest food companies are backing technology that grew out of the anarchic world of crypto-currencies. It’s called blockchain, essentially a shared, cryptographically secure ledger of transactions.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer (and source off the terrible graphic, above, right), was one of the first to get on board, just completing a trial using blockchain technology to track pork in China, where it has more than 400 stores. The time taken to track the meat’s supply chain was cut from 26 hours to just seconds using blockchain, and the scope of the project is being widened to other products, said Frank Yiannas, Wal-Mart’s vice president for food safety, in an interview Thursday.

But will it be advertised at retail, or just some faith consumers will be forced to rely on.

Real transparency means reals data, shared publicly; it’s not a matter of faith.

Going public(er): Alzheimer’s edition

Alzheimer’s has affected me, indirectly, in ways I still can’t understand, but am trying.

My grandfather died of Alzheimer’s in the 1980s, when I was a 20-something.

It wasn’t pretty, so stark that my grandmother took her own life rather than spend winter days going to a hospital where the man she had been with for all those years increasingly didn’t recognize her.

Glen Campbell’s death yesterday from Alzheimer’s, and Gene Wilder’s before that, rekindled lots of conflicting emotions.

In 1995, I was a cocky PhD student and about to be a father for the fourth time, when I was summoned to a meeting with, Ken Murray.

I rode my bike to a local golf club, met the former long-time president of Schneiders Meats, and established a lifelong friendship.

When Ken told me about a project he had established at the University of Waterloo in 1993, the Murray Alzheimer Research and Education Program (MAREP), after his wife’s demise from the disease, I said, I can’t understand the hell of being the primary caregiver for so long, but I know of the side-effects.

Ken had heard I might know something of science-and-society stuff, and he actually funded my faculty position at the University of Guelph for the first two years.

Sure, other weasels at Guelph tried to appropriate the money, but Ken would have none of it.

For over 20 years now, I’ve tried to promote Ken’s vision, of making the best technology available to enhance the safety of the food supply.

I’ve got lots of demons, and what I’ve learned is that it’s best to be public about them. It removes the stigma. It makes one recognize they are not alone. It’s humbling (and that is good).

In addition to being an unbelievably gifted songwriter, session player, and hit maker, Glen Campbell was – directly or not – an outstanding advocate of awareness about Alzheimer’s.

 

Michael Pollack writes in The New York Times obituary that Glen Campbell, the sweet-voiced, guitar-picking son of a sharecropper who became a recording, television and movie star in the 1960s and ’70s, waged a publicized battle with alcohol and drugs and gave his last performances while in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, died on Tuesday in Nashville. He was 81.

Tim Plumley, his publicist, said the cause was Alzheimer’s.

Mr. Campbell revealed that he had the disease in June 2011, saying it had been diagnosed six months earlier. He also announced that he was going ahead with a farewell tour later that year in support of his new album, “Ghost on the Canvas.” He and his wife, Kimberly Campbell, told People magazine that they wanted his fans to be aware of his condition if he appeared disoriented onstage.

What was envisioned as a five-week tour turned into 151 shows over 15 months. Mr. Campbell’s last performance was in Napa, Calif., on Nov. 30, 2012, and by the spring of 2014 he had moved into a long-term care and treatment center near Nashville.

Mr. Campbell released his final studio album, “Adiós,” in June. The album, which included guest appearances by Willie Nelson, Vince Gill and three of Mr. Campbell’s children, was recorded after his farewell tour.

That tour and the way he and his family dealt with the sometimes painful progress of his disease were chronicled in a 2014 documentary, “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me,” directed by the actor James Keach. Former President Bill Clinton, a fellow Arkansas native, appears in the film and praises Mr. Campbell for having the courage to become a public face of Alzheimer’s.

At the height of his career, Mr. Campbell was one of the biggest names in show business, his appeal based not just on his music but also on his easygoing manner and his apple-cheeked, all-American good looks. From 1969 to 1972 he had his own weekly television show, “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.” He sold an estimated 45 million records and had numerous hits on both the pop and country charts. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005.

Decades after Mr. Campbell recorded his biggest hits — including “Wichita Lineman,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Galveston” (all written by Jimmy Webb, his frequent collaborator for nearly 40 years) and “Southern Nights” (1977), written by Allen Toussaint, which went to No. 1 on pop as well as country charts — a resurgence of interest in older country stars brought him back onto radio stations.

Like Bobbie Gentry, with whom he recorded two Top 40 duets, and his friend Roger Miller, Mr. Campbell was a hybrid stylist, a crossover artist at home in both country and pop music.

Although he never learned to read music, Mr. Campbell was at ease not just on guitar but also on banjo, mandolin and bass. He wrote in his autobiography, “Rhinestone Cowboy” (1994) — the title was taken from one of his biggest hits — that in 1963 alone his playing and singing were heard on 586 recorded songs.

He could be a cut-up in recording sessions. “With his humor and energetic talents, he kept many a record date in stitches as well as fun to do,” the electric bassist Carol Kaye, who often played alongside Mr. Campbell, said in an interview in 2011. “Even on some of the most boring, he’d stand up and sing some off-color country song — we’d almost have a baby trying not to bust a gut laughing.”

After playing on many Beach Boys sessions, Mr. Campbell became a touring member of the band in late 1964, when its leader, Brian Wilson, decided to leave the road to concentrate on writing and recording. He remained a Beach Boy into the first few months of 1965.

Mr. Campbell had his most famous movie role in 1969, in the original version of “True Grit.” He had the non-singing part of a Texas Ranger who joins forces with John Wayne and Kim Darby to hunt down the killer of Ms. Darby’s father. (Matt Damon had the role in a 2010 remake.) The next year, Mr. Campbell and the New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath played ex-Marines in “Norwood,” based on a novel by Charles Portis, the author of “True Grit.”

Mr. Campbell made his Las Vegas debut in 1970 and, a year later, performed at the White House for President Richard M. Nixon and for Queen Elizabeth II in London.

But his life in those years had a dark side. “Frankly, it is very hard to remember things from the 1970s,” he wrote in his autobiography. Though his recording and touring career was booming, he began drinking heavily and later started using cocaine. He would annoy his friends by quoting from the Bible while high. “The public had no idea how I was living,” he recalled.

In 1980, after his third divorce, he said: “Perhaps I’ve found the secret for an unhappy private life. Every three years I go and marry a girl who doesn’t love me, and then she proceeds to take all my money.” That year, he had a short, tempestuous and very public affair with the singer Tanya Tucker, who was about half his age.

He credited his fourth wife, the former Kimberly Woollen, with keeping him alive and straightening him out — although he would continue to have occasional relapses for many years. He was arrested in November 2003 in Phoenix and charged with extreme drunken driving and leaving the scene of an accident. He pleaded guilty and served 10 nights in jail in 2004.

I cried with many emotions when I first watched his documentary, I’ll Be Me.

And I’ll watch it again today with humility, respect and gratitude, to people like Glen and Ken.

Science is my faith; the arena is my church: Hucksters, buskers and Kato Kaelin

It was a visit to the Wizard of Oz museum in Kansas that solidified my belief in the hucksters and buskers ruining the dream of America.

I was willingly living in Kansas with a girl I fell in love with – still am — and two of my Canadian daughters were visiting in 2007, so we decided to travel down the road from Manhattan, Kansas, to Wamego, KS, home of the Wizard of Oz museum.

If there’s genius in David Lynch, it’s predicting things before they happen – the elevated hairdo in Eraserhead made popular by Lyle Lovett, the Dr. Amp personified by radio-talk shrill Alan Jones.

Even John Oliver has had a go at Dr. Group, the unfortunately-named chiropractor and Kato-Kaelin–lookalike who shrills science with the veracity of a Kardashian.

Which reminds me, I gotta tell Chapman to shorten his bio.

In academia, when starting as an assistant professor, most  feel a need to put everything they farted out that passed peer review into their bio, including boy scout leader, and hockey coach.

As time goes on, the bio becomes shorter, because you’ve earned that full prof title, and even you don’t give a shit about repeating everything you’ve toiled over for the past 40 years – you also correctly reason that no one else gives a shit either, and if they do, google it.

Check out the degrees behind Dr. Group.

The struggle to confirm who is legitimate and why, continues, and is often laid bare in the fanciest of university-type institutions.

Do these people really care about learning, or are they just there, to make a paycheck, get their retirement and go through the motions.

I won’t go into the latest details about Gwenyth preaching that livers and kidneys can be detoxed by handstands, why Canada’s Dr. Jen Gunter has taken on debunking her Gwenythness, or why a top uni in Spain scraped homeopathy — because it’s nonsense.

Instead I give you the wisdom of John Oliver.

Anti-vaxxers, organic all the same in Australia; scammed school into screening BS film

Anti-vaxxers have allegedly scammed their way into a Gold Coast school under the pretence of holding a seminar about organic vegetables.

But what Miami State School students got was something very different.

The anti-vaxxers instead screened a film about their unfounded beliefs that there is a link between autism and childhood vaccinations.

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is demanding answers as to how the documentary came to be shown at the school on Tuesday night after organisers told school officials they were running a seminar on organic vegetables.

She said the organisation made “misrepresentations” to the school, and she would be speaking with Education Minister Kate Jones on Wednesday to get to the bottom of the matter.

“My initial advice is there has been some misrepresentation from that organisation to the school in question where they conveyed to the principal that they were to be conveying information about organic produce,” the premier told reporters on the Gold Coast on Wednesday.

“I don’t think they were very clear in their purpose and I don’t think they should have been allowed to present in such a manner.”

The organisers of the film have previously gone to extreme lengths to keep the location of screenings a secret in an effort to keep them from being shut down, amid strong opposition from Australian health professionals.

Maybe the Australian government and public should apply similar critical faculties to anyone claiming to purport the benefits of organic production.