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Dear Professor Frizelle,

Professor Connor’s editorial piece of 26 March 2021 headed Why we should be interested in the Whale Oil defamation case does not fairly and accurately present to your readers the reality of the defamation case as it relates to the New Zealand Food & Grocery Council (NZFGC), and myself as its chief executive.

Despite Professor Connor’s insinuations to the contrary, NZFGC did not pay anyone to write any stories on its behalf on Whale Oil or any other publication. Nor was NZFGC otherwise involved in any such stories. This was made abundantly clear to the three plaintiffs throughout the court process. The claim of two of the plaintiffs, professors Sellman and Swinburn, was settled on this basis as far as NZFGC and myself were concerned.

With regard to the other plaintiff, Mr Bradbrook, Professor Connor omits important information regarding his part in the case against NZFGC and myself. It was made clear numerous times prior to and during the proceedings that we had never heard of him, or his organisation Te Reo Marama, before the case. The plaintiffs accepted this and after some years Mr Bradbrook discontinued his claim. The Court ordered that he make a payment to NZFGC for significant Court costs.

Professor Connor refers to so-called threats to researchers “for publishing an account of the scandal as a case study”. What is not said is that Professor Connor was one of the co-authors of the paper and a close colleague of Professor Sellman. The paper contained some errors of fact and in our view was not a fair and accurate report of the proceedings. Rather it was seriously misleading in presenting only one side of the story and continued to attack my appointment to the Health Promotion Agency. We believed the paper failed the test of academic objectivity and accuracy. Hence our letter. As a result of points made to the editor, Professor Connor’s paper was taken down and amended before being republished.

Part of our concerns related to her assertion that there was a conflict of interest with my appointment to the Health Promotion Agency, which Professor Connor now repeats in her editorial. Professor Connor is entitled to hold a personal opinion regarding what constitutes a conflict of interest, but in terms of the official governance and public service definitions, there was none. What she again fails to mention is that both the State Services Commission and the Office of the Auditor-General found there was no basis to the conflict of interest allegation that had been made by professors Connor and Sellman at the time.

Professor Connor asserts that the identity of those behind the posts in issue in the case had been revealed in Nicky Hager’s 2014 book Dirty Politics. Again what she fails to mention is that Professor Swinburn and Mr Bradbrook were not named or otherwise referred to in the book. The assertion that the NZFGC was behind the attacks on the plaintiffs in the case is not correct.

A final comment. NZFGC is an industry association for all food, beverage and grocery suppliers to supermarkets and as such its membership is much greater than that portrayed by Professor Connor. While its members do include multi-nationals, NZFGC is by far made up of small and medium local businesses, many of whom provide to supermarkets and other outlets the sort of foods public health professionals advocate for. NZFGC is also transparent about the submissions it makes to Parliament. They are readily available online. There are no hidden agendas or strategies to stifle public health initiatives or debate. Rather the focus is on working with health and Government officials to achieve realistic and achievable goals through discussion and open debate involving all who have a stake in the food and beverage industry.

Yours sincerely,

Katherine Rich
Chief Executive
New Zealand Food & Grocery Council

Summary

Abstract

Aim

Method

Results

Conclusion

Author Information

Katherine Rich: Chief Executive, New Zealand Food & Grocery Council.

Acknowledgements

Correspondence

Katherine Rich, Chief Executive, New Zealand Food & Grocery Council

Correspondence Email

katherine.rich@fgc.org.nz

Competing Interests

The New Zealand Food & Grocery Council is an industry association and incorporated society for food and grocery manufacturers that supply supermarkets and other grocery-related channels. As CEO, Katherine Rich has no competing interests or conflicts in relation to the letter.

For the PDF of this article, contact
communications@nzma.org.nz

View Article PDF

Dear Professor Frizelle,

Professor Connor’s editorial piece of 26 March 2021 headed Why we should be interested in the Whale Oil defamation case does not fairly and accurately present to your readers the reality of the defamation case as it relates to the New Zealand Food & Grocery Council (NZFGC), and myself as its chief executive.

Despite Professor Connor’s insinuations to the contrary, NZFGC did not pay anyone to write any stories on its behalf on Whale Oil or any other publication. Nor was NZFGC otherwise involved in any such stories. This was made abundantly clear to the three plaintiffs throughout the court process. The claim of two of the plaintiffs, professors Sellman and Swinburn, was settled on this basis as far as NZFGC and myself were concerned.

With regard to the other plaintiff, Mr Bradbrook, Professor Connor omits important information regarding his part in the case against NZFGC and myself. It was made clear numerous times prior to and during the proceedings that we had never heard of him, or his organisation Te Reo Marama, before the case. The plaintiffs accepted this and after some years Mr Bradbrook discontinued his claim. The Court ordered that he make a payment to NZFGC for significant Court costs.

Professor Connor refers to so-called threats to researchers “for publishing an account of the scandal as a case study”. What is not said is that Professor Connor was one of the co-authors of the paper and a close colleague of Professor Sellman. The paper contained some errors of fact and in our view was not a fair and accurate report of the proceedings. Rather it was seriously misleading in presenting only one side of the story and continued to attack my appointment to the Health Promotion Agency. We believed the paper failed the test of academic objectivity and accuracy. Hence our letter. As a result of points made to the editor, Professor Connor’s paper was taken down and amended before being republished.

Part of our concerns related to her assertion that there was a conflict of interest with my appointment to the Health Promotion Agency, which Professor Connor now repeats in her editorial. Professor Connor is entitled to hold a personal opinion regarding what constitutes a conflict of interest, but in terms of the official governance and public service definitions, there was none. What she again fails to mention is that both the State Services Commission and the Office of the Auditor-General found there was no basis to the conflict of interest allegation that had been made by professors Connor and Sellman at the time.

Professor Connor asserts that the identity of those behind the posts in issue in the case had been revealed in Nicky Hager’s 2014 book Dirty Politics. Again what she fails to mention is that Professor Swinburn and Mr Bradbrook were not named or otherwise referred to in the book. The assertion that the NZFGC was behind the attacks on the plaintiffs in the case is not correct.

A final comment. NZFGC is an industry association for all food, beverage and grocery suppliers to supermarkets and as such its membership is much greater than that portrayed by Professor Connor. While its members do include multi-nationals, NZFGC is by far made up of small and medium local businesses, many of whom provide to supermarkets and other outlets the sort of foods public health professionals advocate for. NZFGC is also transparent about the submissions it makes to Parliament. They are readily available online. There are no hidden agendas or strategies to stifle public health initiatives or debate. Rather the focus is on working with health and Government officials to achieve realistic and achievable goals through discussion and open debate involving all who have a stake in the food and beverage industry.

Yours sincerely,

Katherine Rich
Chief Executive
New Zealand Food & Grocery Council

Summary

Abstract

Aim

Method

Results

Conclusion

Author Information

Katherine Rich: Chief Executive, New Zealand Food & Grocery Council.

Acknowledgements

Correspondence

Katherine Rich, Chief Executive, New Zealand Food & Grocery Council

Correspondence Email

katherine.rich@fgc.org.nz

Competing Interests

The New Zealand Food & Grocery Council is an industry association and incorporated society for food and grocery manufacturers that supply supermarkets and other grocery-related channels. As CEO, Katherine Rich has no competing interests or conflicts in relation to the letter.

Contact diana@nzma.org.nz
for the PDF of this article

View Article PDF

Dear Professor Frizelle,

Professor Connor’s editorial piece of 26 March 2021 headed Why we should be interested in the Whale Oil defamation case does not fairly and accurately present to your readers the reality of the defamation case as it relates to the New Zealand Food & Grocery Council (NZFGC), and myself as its chief executive.

Despite Professor Connor’s insinuations to the contrary, NZFGC did not pay anyone to write any stories on its behalf on Whale Oil or any other publication. Nor was NZFGC otherwise involved in any such stories. This was made abundantly clear to the three plaintiffs throughout the court process. The claim of two of the plaintiffs, professors Sellman and Swinburn, was settled on this basis as far as NZFGC and myself were concerned.

With regard to the other plaintiff, Mr Bradbrook, Professor Connor omits important information regarding his part in the case against NZFGC and myself. It was made clear numerous times prior to and during the proceedings that we had never heard of him, or his organisation Te Reo Marama, before the case. The plaintiffs accepted this and after some years Mr Bradbrook discontinued his claim. The Court ordered that he make a payment to NZFGC for significant Court costs.

Professor Connor refers to so-called threats to researchers “for publishing an account of the scandal as a case study”. What is not said is that Professor Connor was one of the co-authors of the paper and a close colleague of Professor Sellman. The paper contained some errors of fact and in our view was not a fair and accurate report of the proceedings. Rather it was seriously misleading in presenting only one side of the story and continued to attack my appointment to the Health Promotion Agency. We believed the paper failed the test of academic objectivity and accuracy. Hence our letter. As a result of points made to the editor, Professor Connor’s paper was taken down and amended before being republished.

Part of our concerns related to her assertion that there was a conflict of interest with my appointment to the Health Promotion Agency, which Professor Connor now repeats in her editorial. Professor Connor is entitled to hold a personal opinion regarding what constitutes a conflict of interest, but in terms of the official governance and public service definitions, there was none. What she again fails to mention is that both the State Services Commission and the Office of the Auditor-General found there was no basis to the conflict of interest allegation that had been made by professors Connor and Sellman at the time.

Professor Connor asserts that the identity of those behind the posts in issue in the case had been revealed in Nicky Hager’s 2014 book Dirty Politics. Again what she fails to mention is that Professor Swinburn and Mr Bradbrook were not named or otherwise referred to in the book. The assertion that the NZFGC was behind the attacks on the plaintiffs in the case is not correct.

A final comment. NZFGC is an industry association for all food, beverage and grocery suppliers to supermarkets and as such its membership is much greater than that portrayed by Professor Connor. While its members do include multi-nationals, NZFGC is by far made up of small and medium local businesses, many of whom provide to supermarkets and other outlets the sort of foods public health professionals advocate for. NZFGC is also transparent about the submissions it makes to Parliament. They are readily available online. There are no hidden agendas or strategies to stifle public health initiatives or debate. Rather the focus is on working with health and Government officials to achieve realistic and achievable goals through discussion and open debate involving all who have a stake in the food and beverage industry.

Yours sincerely,

Katherine Rich
Chief Executive
New Zealand Food & Grocery Council

Summary

Abstract

Aim

Method

Results

Conclusion

Author Information

Katherine Rich: Chief Executive, New Zealand Food & Grocery Council.

Acknowledgements

Correspondence

Katherine Rich, Chief Executive, New Zealand Food & Grocery Council

Correspondence Email

katherine.rich@fgc.org.nz

Competing Interests

The New Zealand Food & Grocery Council is an industry association and incorporated society for food and grocery manufacturers that supply supermarkets and other grocery-related channels. As CEO, Katherine Rich has no competing interests or conflicts in relation to the letter.

Contact diana@nzma.org.nz
for the PDF of this article

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