Australia's strawberry industry was dealt a massive blow this week when needles were found in the fruit, by people who had purchased them from local stores.
Two of New Zealand’s major supermarket chains halted the distribution of strawberries from Australia in the wake of the incident, and masses of strawberries were dumped as a federal investigation took place.
It was later revealed a young boy had admitted to inserting the needles as a prank, and authorities have said he will be dealt with under the youth cautioning system. Other incidents were expected to result from copycat behaviour.
Contaminated strawberries were reportedly found in all six states, prompting major disruptions to distribution and a conversation around food sabotage penalties.
The Australian government was expected to push through harsher penalties for sabotaging fruit - increasing maximum jail time from 10 to 15 years, and a new offence of "recklessness" was expected to be implemented, with imprisonment of up to 10 years.
New Zealand supply chain expert Nigel Grigg from Massey University said food terrorism remained an ever-present threat.
The only safeguards would be airport-style security checks of all product carried out at ports of entry or by the final retailers, he said. "However, the costs of such security would be prohibitive, and it is hard to imagine what battery of tests could effectively identify all conceivable contaminants."
The SMC gathered expert comment on the incidents.
"Historically, we've been seeing health and wellbeing tracking towards more positive outcomes. [But] this is looking like this generation is going to be less healthy than their parents' generation."
Univeristy of Otago researcher and Dr Helena McAnally on a Dunedin study which revealed this generation's teens are less fit than their parents were at their age.
Suffrage 125 on
The 125th anniversary of universal suffrage in New Zealand has been marked on Sciblogs through a series of blogs covering everything from women in STEM to paid parental leave.
SMC senior media advisor and Sciblogs editor Dr Sarah-Jane O'Connor put a call out for women in science to contribute a piece with a very broad brief: they could write about anything relating to their lives, their science, or greater issues around diversity and equity.
The result: a stream of pieces about women on research voyages, penguin sex and Edwardian puritanic shock, non-binary gender and finding the stories that bust fusty stereotypes wide open, and finding scientists in our communities.
"The leaky pipeline is never more evident than at sea," wrote GNS Science's Dr Lucy Stewart, reflecting on the gender imbalance aboard research vessels. She's currently off the East Coast on the NIWA research vessel Tangaroa, and said, "five out of the fourteen scientists on this voyage are women; that’s pretty good as these things go".
University of Auckland astrophysicist Dr JJ Eldridge wrote about the sadness of missing out on strong women in science role models because their stories were hidden.
"For a long time, I feel like I was brainwashed that to be good in astrophysics I had to be a man, and always tried to fit the mould.
"I’m also inspired to find out more of these stories and make sure more people discover these hidden histories, knowing the importance of their impact."
Manaaki Whenua kairangahau Māori Yvonne Taura reflected on her journey learning both mātauranga Māori and western science simultaneously.
"I have the privilege of working with a team of intelligent and passionate mana wāhine, who I am in awe of, observing their amazing talents and strengths in their work.
"What sets us apart from many scientists engaged in the conventional scientific realm is that we, as kairangahau Māori, have a holistic approach to our research."
The Suffrage 125 series is available on Sciblogs.
Payout from meth
The Government has agreed to pay compensation to 800 tenants affected byunnecessary testing for methcontamination in Housing NZ homes.
These tenants suffered by either losing their tenancies, losing their possessions, being suspended from the public housing waiting list, negative effects on their credit ratings or, in the worst cases, being made homeless, Housing Minister Phil Twyford said.
They will also recieve a formal
apology from Housing NZ, he said.
The apology and offer to compensate followed a report into the agency's meth testing regime, released on Thursday morning.
It found that between July 2013 and May 2018 nearly 5000 Housing New Zealand (HNZ) properties were tested for meth contamination, with about half of these tests testing positive for the too-low standard at the time, Stuff reported.
The Government now admits the testing was not needed.
That report follows one released in May by then Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman, which examined methamphetamine residue on household surfaces, potential health risks, recommendations for testing and remediation based on health risk and differences between properties where meth was manufactured versus where it was smoked.
key finding from Gluckman's report was that there was no
real risk of harm from properties where meth had only been
consumed - not cooked.
HNZ expects to spend about $2.4m on the compensation.
RNZ reported compensation was unlikely for private landlords, who lost out financially by sticking to the former guidelines.
The Science Media Centre has several workshops coming up in October and November.
In October, our half-day video workshops will visit Christchurch and Dunedin. Produced in collaboration with Baz Caitcheon, the workshops focus on giving scientists the tools and skills to communicate their research in short videos aimed at an online audience.
The workshops are free, but limited to 15
places. This is a competitive application process – the
best applicants will be selected based on the video concepts
outlined in the application form.
• Christchurch, University of Canterbury
WED, 24th October, 9.00am – 1.00pm
• Dunedin, University of Otago
THURS, 25th October, 9.00am – 1.00pm
November SAVVY in Wellington
Our flagship media training course returns to Wellington for our fourth and final two-day Science Media SAVVY for the year.
• Wellington, Royal Society Te Apārangi