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Issue Date:- 06 October 2008


74% of older people in the North West think the Government is not doing enough to help people with the rising cost of fuel bills, according to new research launched by Help the Aged and Friends of the Earth. 

The research was published on the same day the Government is being hauled before a High Court judge to defend its failure to lift vulnerable people out of fuel poverty.  The judicial review is being brought by the 2 charities in the only case of its kind examining fuel poverty policy.

Although the Government is legally bound to do all that is reasonably possible to eradicate fuel poverty for vulnerable households by 2010 and for all households by 2016, 5 million households in the United Kingdom will struggle to heat and power their homes this winter.  Despite the announcement of recent Government measures designed to combat the problem, the equivalent of nearly a million older people in the North West think the Government is failing.

This overwhelming public opinion supports the views of Friends of the Earth and Help the Aged who are arguing that the Government has broken the law by not doing everything reasonably practicable to meet its fuel poverty targets.  The charities have filed for a judicial review (the legal procedure used to challenge public authorities) and hope that the High Court will order the Government to fulfil its legal commitment.

The case will highlight:-

· Government failure to provide a comprehensive and costed plan of action for meeting its targets;

· Government failure to set a minimum standard of energy efficiency to be applied to affected households;

· Repeated criticism of the Government from the independent Fuel Poverty Advisory Group;

· That the Government itself has admitted that targets to reduce and eventually eliminate fuel poverty will be missed.

Friends of the Earth and Help the Aged are calling on the Government to develop a far more effective and comprehensive programme of domestic energy efficiency to simultaneously end suffering from fuel poverty and tackle climate change. 

Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said:- “The Government is letting people down by failing on its legal commitment to end the suffering of fuel poverty.  At the moment, most homes in the UK are simply leaking heat – to solve fuel poverty in the long term, a massive energy efficiency programme is needed.  This will keep people warm, cut bills and help meet our targets for tackling climate change.”

Mervyn Kohler, Special Adviser for Help the Aged, says:- “It’s not surprising that older people in the North West have little faith in the Government’s mediocre attempts to tackle fuel poverty.  Though fuel poverty is high on the media and political agendas, Government actions to reduce it fall far short of the crisis it is creating for millions of pensioners and low-income families.  It is vital that the Government comes up with an effective strategy for tackling fuel poverty.  Low income households need crisis payments simply to get through the coming winter, but in the longer term, the energy efficiency of our homes must be improved.  The Government has a legal duty to do this.”

  Fat’s all folks!

TONY the Tiger, Pom-Bear, Moo the Dairylea cow and Snap, Crackle and Pop are cartoon baddies in the fight against childhood obesity and diet-related disease, new Which? research has revealed. 

Out of 19 children’s food company cartoon favourites, not a single character promoted only healthier products.  The research demonstrates the need for industry to amend their self-regulatory CAP and BCAP codes and use these much-loved characters to promote foods that are lower in fat, salt and sugar. 

Despite being revised in April 2007, the protection offered to children by the CAP and BCAP code remains weak. 

At the moment these industry codes restrict the use of 3rd party licensed characters like Shrek for younger children, but do nothing to stop company-owned characters and do not cover all types of promotions, including packaging.

The Cartoon League Table was compiled after 66% of people told Which? they think food companies should not be allowed to use cartoon characters to promote unhealthy foods to children.  This new research is part of Which?’s wider campaign to introduce restrictions on marketing of junk food to children through TV, internet and packaging as part of the broader fight against childhood obesity and diet-related health problems.

Cartoon baddies included:-

Moo (Kraft - Dairylea) - Kraft’s cartoon cow is present across a large spread of Dairylea packaging.  Moo may seem a salt of the earth character, but her products contain another sort of sodium.  Cheese products can be a rich source of calcium but are often high in saturated fat and salt.  Dairylea Lunchables chicken ‘n’ cheese wraps, for example, contain over a third of the maximum amount of salt a 7 to 10 year old child should consume in a day (Food Standard Agency guidelines).

Tony the Tiger (Kellogg’s - Frosties) – known for the catchphrase, ‘They’re gr-r-reat!’, this stripy character has promoted his frosted cereal for over 50 years making him a household name.  But Frosties contain over a 3rd sugar, giving parents a reason to paws for thought.

Captain Crunch (Red Mill Snack Foods - Transform-A-Snack) – he spends his days fighting the evil Baron Von Scoffalot, but with crisps that are high in fat and salt, let’s hope he doesn’t scoff all the snacks he promotes. 

Clare Corbett, Which? Food Campaigner said:- “Cartoons are great fun for kids.   We definitely don’t want to see the end of popular characters like Tony the Tiger and the Honey Monster, but we do want to see them promoting healthier products. 

Food companies must play their part in the fight against childhood obesity and diet-related disease by acting responsibly.  Going back to the drawing board and closing the cartoon loophole in their self-regulatory CAP and BCAP codes is a vital step in tackling this complex issue. 

If the industry fails to act, the Government must step in.”

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