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Commercial in confidence: public health without confidence

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Implementing public health measures with obvious benefits becomes a complex struggle when commercial interests are paramount

The evening of 25 March 2009 was cool for the community consultation — a necessary step before the implementation of fluoridation of the Cobram water supply. There were only a few people present in the Civic Centre, but they warmly applauded the initiative. None of the expected antifluoride lobby turned up, and the meeting was a short one …

After all, it is accepted that fluoridation of drinking water is an effective way to ensure the whole community can benefit from fluoride’s preventive role in reducing tooth decay.1,2

Thus, it was expected that Cobram would follow the path of nearby Yarrawonga and this seemingly routine adoption of a well researched public health measure would be quickly achieved.

Wrong! Over 5 years later, Cobram still has not had its water supply fluoridated.

The story so far

Cobram, a small country town on the Murray River in Northern Victoria, is where the Murray Goulburn Co-operative, one of the largest milk producers in Victoria, has existed since 1949. In 1951, the Co-operative diversified into cheesemaking. It is a major contributor to the local economy. In early 2014, the company announced that it would build a $74…