Home' Greymouth Star : October 20th 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Monday, October 20, 2014
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uLetters to the editor
1822 - Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper is first
1827 - In the Greek War of Independence, the
Turkish and Egyptian fleets are destroyed by
the British, French and Russians at the Battle of
1944 - US troops land on the eastern coast
of Leyte Island in the Philippines, fulfilling a
promise General Douglas MacArthur
made when his forces retreated
from the Japanese; on the same day,
Russian and Yugoslav forces capture
1968 - Jackie Kennedy marries
Onassis, ending nearly five years of
1971 - West German Chancellor Willy Brandt
is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
1991 - Earthquake strikes Himalayan foothills
in India, killing at least 341 people and destroying
tens of thousands of homes.
1992 - China and Japan hail friendship and
cooperation as Emperor Akihito visits Beijing.
1994 - A landmine explosion kills Tajikistan’s
deputy prime minister, casting a shadow over the
first day of a ceasefire between the ex-Communist
government and the Afghanistan-based
opposition; Death of US actor Burt Lancaster,
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Sir Christopher Wren, English architect
(1632-1723); Lord Palmerston, British statesman
(1784-1865); John Pascoe Fawkner, one of
Melbourne’s founders (1792-1869); Arthur
Rimbaud, French author (1854-1891); John
Dewey, US philosopher (1859-1952); Bela
Lugosi, Dracula actor (1882-1956); Sir James
Chadwick, British physicist (1891-1974); Art
Buchwald, US columnist (1925-2007);
Jerry Orbach, American actor (1935-
2004); Wanda Jackson, US country
singer (1937-); Earl Hindman, US
actor of Home Improvement fame
(1942-2003); Tom Petty, US singer
(1950-); Dogg, US rapper (1971-) .
“Morals is not preaching, it is beauty of a rare
kind.” — Ernest Dimnet, French priest, lecturer
and author (1866-1954)
‘And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom
came, and those who were ready went with Him
into the wedding banquet; and the door was
shut. ’ — (Matthew 25:10)
Alan Stanley Dando
is a Greymouth Post
Office linesman who
constantly deals with
power poles. But he hardly imagined he would
face a powerful incident like he did here on
Saturday night. The Peel Street, Cobden man
enacted a local version of that well-known old
formula: what happens when an irresistible force
meets an immovable object? Something has to
give. In this case it was a solid veteran power pole
which did the giving.
Mr Dando had been driving east along
Mawhera Quay about 11.40pm on Saturday
evening. At the railway crossing his vehicle ran
into the pole. Mr Dando’s vehicle pulled to a
quick halt with its front lightly damaged. the
startled driver escaped injury. The square-shaped
pole finished slumped over at a drunken angle.
Had the wood been in better condition, Mr
Dando might not have been so fortunate.
Jo Dee is on her feet. This afternoon she ate a
box of carrots and seems to be recovering.She has
responded to pounds of Epsom salts and gallons
of cold tea.
She is one of three elephants of Sole Bros circus
which sampled the poisonous New Zealand
native shrub tutu, in the upper Buller Gorge on
Sunday with disastrous results.
Today, in Westport, this one mammoth, worth
up to £10,000, lay critically ill unable to get to
her feet and showing no response to treatment.
The other two appear to have recovered, so much
so that one broke away from his chains last night
and went ‘walkabout ’ for about an hour.
Meanwhile, West Coast veterinarian
Mr V Peterson did not leave the ‘bedside’.
uFood for thought
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On screen and off, actress Melanie
Griffith has spent her life nestling up to
some of Hollywood’s biggest hunks. But
there was once a male in her life with
both more hair and smouldering attitude
than her mullet-wearing exes, Don
Johnson and Antonio Banderas.
He was called Neil and, on paper at
least, he was not exactly every 13-year-
old girl’s dream companion. But these
extraordinary pictures of a young Griffith,
and others of her mother Tippi Hedren
and their fully grown “pet ” lion, Neil, are
not the result of photographic trickery.
Hedren and her then husband, Noel
Marshall, really did open their Los
Angeles home in 1971 to an animal that
looks like he could have swallowed little
Mel in one gulp.
The photos, taken for Life magazine,
suggest that they and the 2.5m, 180kg
lion were one big happy family.
Perhaps the most remarkable picture
shows Neil sharing a bed with Melanie
— who went on to star in Working Girl
— his long tail hanging out from under
Ironically, today the astonishing images
evoke only extreme embarrassment and
regret in Tippi Hedren.
“I cringe when I see those pictures now,”
she said. “ We were stupid beyond belief.
We should never have taken those risks.
“These animals are so fast, and if they
decide to go after you, nothing but a
bullet to the brain will stop them.”
She also revealed that their experience
with Neil lulled them into a false sense
of security which was to have disastrous
Today Hedren, 84, runs a big cat
sanctuary in California. But how did
Hollywood royalty come to be sharing
a sofa — and a swimming pool and
bedroom — with the king of the jungle?
The answer is pure Tinseltown.
Hedren had been filming in Africa
in 1969 when she and husband Noel
Marshall — a Hollywood agent who later
produced The Exorcist — stumbled across
an abandoned game warden’s house in
Mozambique. It had been taken over by a
pride of 30 lions.
The encounter gave the two animal-
lovers an idea for a feature film about a
family who share their house with scores
of lions, tigers and panthers and film the
Nobody had attempted this before, with
good reason, animal experts said, as big
cats will instinctively fight unless they
know each other well.
Sensibly, Ron Oxley, who ran a business
training and renting animals to film
studios in LA, advised the couple that
if they really hoped to understand these
deeply individualistic creatures, they must
first live with one.
Oxley insisted he had just the sweet-
natured lion for them, which had been
trained to interact with humans.
Born in Africa, his name was Neil and
he’d been brought to the US as a young
Oxley had put a huge effort into
bonding with him.
“Ron told us exactly what we could do
and what we couldn’t do. And we listened
very carefully to him,” explains Hedren.
Neil proved such a delight that, within
a few months, Hedren and Marshall
decided to adopt their own four-month-
old cub. By 1980, they had 71 lions, 20
tigers, 10 cougars, nine black panthers,
four leopards, two jaguars and a tigon (a
Many of the beasts (although not Neil)
starred in Roar, the 1981 film the couple
dreamed of making.
Featuring the whole family, including
Griffith and Marshall’s two sons from
a previous marriage, it involved a flimsy
story about them getting chased
around their house by the big
Roar cost a walloping $US17
million and took five years
to make, largely because the
animals were so unpredictable as
It was a flop and the stress
of making it finished off the
It also convinced Hedren that
treating big cats like pets had
been a mistake.
“There were seven big incidents
and two people were almost
killed making the film,” she says.
The director of photography,
Jan de Bont, had his scalp sewn
back on after being attacked.
Everyone in Hedren’s family was
injured: she was bitten on the
head, while Melanie had plastic
surgery after a lion clawed her
If only Neil hadn’t been such
a pussycat, Hedren admits they
might never have been tempted
to make the film.
But the pictures with him don’t tell
anything like the whole story, she says.
“The breeders will tell you lions are
wonderful pets — and it’s an absolute lie.”
t ’s a business built with love and
pride over more than 20 years.
Living Foods began on a
half-acre of land in Mangere,
around which has grown the cool
stores and offices needed for the
bustling business it is today.
Director Mark Goodwin, 56, used to
drive the tractor. His partner and fellow
director Vicky Thompson says it all began
with sprouts and then, well, everything
She says it’s taken 20 years to build
Living Foods up to what it is now —
producer of “the most popular packaged
salad in New Zealand”.
Popularity has its price, possibly in
brand recognition among those sick with
The salads, sold through Foodstuffs
supermarkets, were referred to in
inter views with 23 of the 96 people who
fell sick over the six-week period of the
Ms Thompson: “In that time frame,
we’ve done 1.3 million salads which ser ve
four people each. That ’s an enormous
amount of salad to put down to 23 people
who have eaten a Pams salad.”
The quiet Mangere food producer
has watched journalists charging up its
driveway, cameras swung about and TV3’s
John Campbell in its reception area
with good wishes and sincere concern.
The company ’s good name is on a news
website under the headline: “Bug linked
to one farm.”
But it hasn’t been — at least, not really.
Living Foods emerged because of two
controversial reports which were said to
hold the answer to the food poisoning
puzzle. After a week of saying the reports
proved nothing, the Ministry of Primary
Industries bowed to media and public
pressure to release them.
The reports list a range of food eaten by
those who had fallen sick. A high number
— 9 1 % — reported eating lettuce in the
weeks before becoming ill.
Of the 96 people surveyed, 23 said they
had eaten Pams salad. Others named
competitors’ salads, although not in the
same numbers. On Thursday, Foodstuffs
announced its sole salad supplier Living
Foods had quarantined a paddock in case
it turned out to be part of the outbreak.
There was still nothing to say where
the contamination had come from —
but after 10 days of no clear answers, an
identifiable culprit was eagerly grasped.
Mr Goodwin welcomed the Weekend
Herald to the company ’s offices with the
warning: “ There are a lot of sensitivities at
the moment. You might see some smiles
— but they ’re not deep.
“ We’re starting to understand. Everyone
wants a scapegoat.”
The outbreak would have begun back
in August, with the first victims showing
up in ESR’s early warning system on
September 22. There were fewer than four
cases of yersinia pseudotuberculosis a year
between 2010 and 2013. There would
be 138 confirmed cases in this year’s
The alerts come through a system used
by medicos to record illness with statistics
revealing aberrations. ESR’s expert
Graham Mackereth said the alert was
raised after yersinia pseudotuberculosis
cases came from three different
regions. He said the cases revealed an
“ indistinguishable strain” — an evolution
of the bug with an identical and
unmistakable signature. “ Then we knew
we had a common source out there.”
The Ministry of Health was alerted on
September 23 and MPI told a day later.
But it was between October 3 and 5
that the ESR team tried to get a handle
on the source of the infection through
quizzing 96 of the estimated 138 cases.
The data led to the two controversial
reports — October 6 and October 8.
You ask Dr Mackereth and he’ ll explain
“there’s a softness to the data”. “ The
reports showed a number of foods people
had eaten that made us want to check
them. Most of them are foods that are
Lettuce and carrots were reported as
being eaten more often than expected
among those who were ill. The ESR team
tried to establish a baseline by quizzing
its own staff and DHB staff over eating
habits as a “control”.
The reports were never intended to
identify one supermarket chain — and
do not. “ You can imagine scenarios where
more than one line of supply becomes
The report, with all its caveats, was a
tool to give the investigation direction.
“There’s no suggestion this report was
to ever try and solve the outbreak. We
haven’t nailed it in the study but studies
don’t usually do that. It’s part of the
process. It ’s not an end point.
“It’s supposed to be a lead and it’s not
supposed to be an answer.”
In Canterbury, which had 48 of the 96
reported cases, the outspoken medical
officer of health Alistair Humphrey
seized on the report as an answer.
There was enough information in it,
he said, to show carrots and salad were
to blame. He also claimed the reports
identified one supermarket chain and a
particular product as responsible for the
The last case reported to ESR was on
October 9 — over a week ago — about
the time MPI refused to release the
report, saying it was concerned it would
unfairly stigmatise producers.
The refusal drove a huge increase in the
coverage even as Dr Humphrey insisted
it offered answers.
The clamour over the outbreak grew,
with the Prime Minister asked why the
reports would not be released, as was
Food Safety Minister Jo Goodhew. At
the Ministry of Primary Industries,
the press team was trying to manage a
situation which was out of control. Initial
inquiries by the Weekend Herald took
more than a day to respond to, and when
someone did get on the phone, the press
adviser disconnected the call, saying he
was too busy to talk. Look how much
there is to do, he said later, pointing at a
long string of inter views.
The person who fronted for the
outbreak was MPI’s second in command,
deputy director of general regulation and
assurance Scott Gallacher.
The day the reports were released —
after consultation with Ms Goodhew
— he was saying the debate around
them had “overplayed the significance”
they had. There were “disclaimers and
limitations scattered through”.
“ We felt we couldn’t come out (with
them) because we would scare so many
The information in the reports was
“ blown out of proportion”. “ They had
developed a status. We needed to front.
Here are the reports — please see them
for what they are.
“It was a piece of the puzzle. We
were trying to diligently work on the
whole puzzle. We’re in the midst of an
investigation. I know we live in a world of
CSI and we need it in 60 minutes. That ’s
not the case in real life.
He said he was asked if it was possible
to identify the source - or the farm. He
said he couldn’t. “As soon as we have
information that is strong and credible,
we will move with it.”
So, what do the reports say?
“There was an association with lettuce.
It was far from clear it was a true
association. People were eating the same
products, the same types, and were not
“Something out of the ordinary appears
to have occurred. We just don’t know
what that is.”
One of the problems is the incubation
period of three to 21 days. “ We’re dealing
with people being asked questions about
what they ate three or four weeks earlier.
“ When you look at the time lag you’ve
got here, it does raise questions in our
minds if we will ever get to the definitive
Those doubts also occur to Massey
University’s food safety Professor Steve
He said yersinia pseudotuberculosis was
found almost everywhere but was not a
common form of food poisoning. As a
psychotrophic bacteria, it continued to
function at refrigeration temperatures
when other organisms died. If the
temperature rose above 4.7degC, then the
bacteria would grow at a faster rate. The
emergence of bacteria in great numbers
created severe adverse reactions, he said.
He said it was highly unlikely the
problem would have come from a specific
field unless it was a paddock where
a lot of cattle had been kept or “had
been intensively fertilised with animal
“Most food poisoning incidents don’t
get tracked down to a particular source.
I hope they find it but they probably
Market garden lettuces.
Lettuce blame game
Melanie Griffith’s big kitty...
When an outbreak of food poisoning was linked to a bad batch of lettuce, one Auckland farm was singled out. Now the owners say they’re fed up with
taking the blame for a much wider problem. David Fisher of the New Zealand reports.
PICTURE: Getty Images
Griffith and Neil share a bed.
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