Documents > Politics
National Fluoride Information Centre dumped
by UK government.
Doug Cross 20th May 2011
The British Government's 'Fluoride Flagship' has finally had its funding pulled, supposedly as part of the National Health Service's desperate attempt to save money. Well, here's a bit of background - read on and make up your own mind!
The UK’s official fluoride propaganda outfit, the notorious National Fluoride Information Centre based at Manchester University, has been shut down. Treasury funding of £125,000 a year has been terminated, and the Centre’s functions - such as they were - are to be taken over by the University Dental School.
Well, maybe - in the House of Lords on Monday the noble Earl Howe, speaking for the government, seemed somewhat uncertain of its future when challenged by anti-fluoridation stalwart Earl Baldwin .
The NFIC was set up in 2004, under the Directorship of Professor Anthony Blinkhorn, as part of the British government’s strategy to support Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) wishing to force water companies to fluoridate, under the preposterous fluoridation clauses in the Water Act 2003.
When Blinkhorn left Manchester for an academic post in Australia in 2007, he was succeeded by Prof Robin Davies, another senior employee of the Colgate-Palmolive fluoridated toothpaste empire.
Prof. Blinkhorn has a long history of research on fluoridation and dental public health. By 2005 he had been awarded an OBE, followed in January 2006 by the presentation of what the Manchester University School of Dentistry hilariously referred to as ˜the prestigious H Trendley Dean Distinguished Scientist Award" (yes, THAT H Trendley Dean!), selected by a no doubt totally unbiased ‘global panel of past prize-winners’, and presented to him in Australia under the sponsorship of Colgate-Palmolive. (And just who selected those past prize-winners, you might reasonably ask)
This proclaimed ‘Centre of Academic Excellence’ was dreamed up by the British government in an attempt to lend spurious respectability to a thoroughly disrespectable concept, but there always seemed to be something a little dodgy about it.
We were getting frustrated reports from people who had tried, and failed, to contact the Centre, so in July 2009 we sent our undercover investigator on a trip into the Coupland III Building at Manchester University. What he reported back to us was shocking.
It seems that the Department of Health had been funnelling £125,000 a year into a ‘Centre’ that was in fact little more than an unattended telephone-answering machine in a locked room in a stripped out and semi-abandoned building on the University campus.
Even the maintenance staff had no idea it was supposed to be there! And by an ironic twist, the building had been abandoned by the University School of Pharmacy in 2007, as despite an expensive overhaul shortly before, it was still considered to be ‘unfit for modern science’.
After we went public with our findings, anti-fluoride campaigners within Parliament started bombarding Health Ministers (including, of course, former Andy Burnham, Secretary of State for Health and also former Vice President of the British Fluoridation Society) with increasingly pointed questions about its funding.
The NFIC continued to stagger along, but it never fully recovered from this exposure. In the 2009-10 campaign in Hampshire, South Central SHA desperately relied on pro-fluoridation ‘evidence’ from the NFIC to convince the public in Southampton that fluoridation was respectable, but no-one else placed any reliance on its advice.
‘Blinkhorn’s Folly’ was always a jerry-built edifice - as we discovered, it was literally nothing more than an empty shell. Now the government has surreptitiously ordered the demolition men in, to shut it down - ‘Blinkhorn’s Folly’ has now been wiped from the academic landscape.
Or has it? Colgate’s former Director of R&D and father of the late and unlamented NFIC in the UK, is now Chair of Population Oral Health at Sydney University. There are strong links between his Department and the Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health (ARCPOH) and the Colgate Clinical Dental Research Centre at Adelaide University. This is Colgate’s Battle Command Centre for the protection of its lucrative ‘Fluoride’ brand in Australia.
Prof. Blinkhorn will be called as a witness in the Oshlack v Rous Water case before the Land and Environment Court in Sydney next month, so it will be interesting to see what our Australian colleagues make of the passing of his high-profile project back here in the UK.