It's a strange business, the supermarket caper. At one end of the store they're throwing perfectly good food into bins because the best-before date printed on the packet has gone by.

At the other end, they are selling you food that might make you sick, and in the cases of more than 100 people has done so. A key difference is that you can read the best-before date yourself because it's printed on the packet.

In the case of the tainted carrots and lettuce sold in Foodstuffs' New World and Pak'nSave supermarkets, however, the packets do not bear the message: "May contain traces of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis that can trigger stomach cramps and diarrhoea."

Nothing makes you feel more betrayed than discovering you've been buying food that could make you sick. Have a nice day.


It would behove any relevant body to leap in and alert us to the problem by giving us a couple of hints about which veges to avoid.

This, for reasons that have not been satisfactorily explained, the Ministry for Primary Industries failed to do.

If there's one thing we hope to consume with total confidence it's water, so it raised an eyebrow or two to learn that a couple of Auckland's main water sources, Lakes Cossey and Wairoa, had been out of action because they were found to contain traces of metsulfuron-methyl, which, as the name suggests, isn't good for you.

It probably wasn't that serious. The lakes were closed for only five months and Watercare, which Aucklanders pay to look after our water, has said there was never a risk to our health.

So you have to wonder why it was kept a secret rather than used as an opportunity to show us how well our interests are being protected.

We used to get so annoyed when we found out Soviet diplomats were actually spies. But they were communists. Ghastly people. What did you expect?

And the Soviets, of course, were, if not enemies, certainly not close allies.

It seems at best hypocritical, therefore, to have been spying on our allies through our embassies, as suggested in documents released by Edward Snowden this week. (I wonder if spies often get the feeling Edward Snowden is watching them?)


Individually, these three episodes are bad enough. But collectively, they show the workings of a cover-up culture that, we have recently learned, is Government policy.

There are plenty more examples. A report on how to deal with child poverty is suppressed. Its contents are grudgingly wrung from the minster's hands under an Official Information Act request that was met only after a year and a half and a complaint to the Ombudsman. Transpacific Partnership Agreement negotiations continue in secret.

The cover-up culture is a mindset that says the best approach to just about anything is not to let on and hope no one will find out. But someone always does.

There's a dinner party game where you name the event from history at which you would most like to have been present.

Most nominate something along the lines of the crucifixion, the opening night of Hamlet or Cook's first encounter with Maori, but for me there will only ever be one choice.

How I wish I could have been at the Glassons meeting where the conversation concluded with the line: "You know what's wrong with our mannequins? You can't see their ribs."