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Mitshubishi: Selling bluefin will save it [Jun. 5th, 2009|12:09 pm]

Debate is swirling over the endangered bluefin. Nobu, the Japanese restaurant chain, has angered its celebrity customers by keeping it on the menu.

After the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT)sanctioned an unsustainable catch this year, Mitsubishi Corporation - which controls at least 35 per cent of the bluefin trade - said that bluefin was "being overfished and without effective regulation and conservation management" and noted that "this situation will worsen."

But guess what? In its January statement, Mitsubishi added:

"After reviewing ICCAT meeting results, MC believes that it can best contribute to the sustainability of bluefin tuna by remaining in the business for now and continuing to work with other stakeholders to improve the regulation and management and management of bluefin tuna fishing in the Mediterranean."

That wording again: "MC believes that it can best contribute to the sustainability of bluefin tuna by remaining in the business."

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Dream up a man toy [May. 29th, 2009|10:55 am]

Got a great idea for an executive toy? Boys toys e-tailer Firebox is asking for inventions that can be made into products. You don't have to have a prototype or anything expensive - just a workable idea that can be made into a cool gift. in return you'll get 50 per cent of the profits.

A panel of technology geeks including Stuff magazine editor-in-chief Tom Dunmore will judge the entries. Click here for more details.
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Salty bread still OK in 'crackdown' [May. 19th, 2009|04:57 pm]

Bread will still be sold in the UK with unecessarly high levels of salt, despite a crackdown announced this week.
Manufacturers will have to meet the Food Standards Agency's new salt reduction targets  by 2012.

The FSA is rightly proud of its success in encouraging food companies to lower salt, which causes 21,000 deaths a year - at least - through heart disease and strokes, and its new targets should reduce the number of these pointless deaths.

But the agency has backtracked on its target for lowering salt in bread. The FSA had consulted on lowering salt from its 2010 target of 1.1grams per 100 grams of bread to .93 grams. Instead - presumably after intense lobbying from the baking industry - the new target will be 1.0 grams.

The FSA should have stuck to its planned target. As the Independent reported last year many supermarkets are already baking bread with around the .93 grams level that has now been abandoned. By contrast Warburtons is baking bread with about 1.08 grams.

A fifth of our salt intake comes from bread. Currently, the average adult daily consumption of salt is 9 grams (down from 12 grams a few years ago), but the target is for 6 grams. Salt campaigners CASH say we should be aiming for half that, around 3grams.

Bakers can cut salt if they want to...

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Little Chef does a big thing [May. 15th, 2009|12:04 pm]

Little Chef's chief executive Ian Pegler is still thinking whether he will roll out chef Heston Blumenthal's new menu, which would come at a cost: to customers in the form of higher prices and to the firm in the form of costlier ingredients.

In the meantime, Little Chef is keen to reposition itself as a more classy roadside diner. Last night the company was given a Good Egg award for switching its 13m eggs a year to free-range. Other companies which have gone free-range are Starbucks, Virgin Trains, Booths, and Debenhams (at its in-store cafes).

If you want to check whether your favourite chain restaurant is free-range, Compassion in World Farming has the list of Good Egg winners.
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Tips: now Real Greek backs down [May. 12th, 2009|11:14 am]

More good news on tips following the Government's decision to end the minimum wage loophole. One of Britain's biggest restaurant groups, Clapham House, has stopped pocketing tips at its Real Greek and Tootsies chains.

We featured Clapham House's policy of pocketing some tips left to waiting staff here.

In yesterday's Evening Standard, Paul Campbell, Clapham House's chief executive said: “We removed the service charge at The Real Greek and we're going to tips-only at Tootsies next week.

"We like the idea there is no confusion. We like customers to feel that what they leave goes straight to the staff. It has had a positive impact already. It creates a virtuous circle because staff know they are going to be well-rewarded for outstanding service but if they give bad service then there is a good chance they will get nothing."

Despite the change of the law - which comes into force in October - restaurant chains can still keep tips providing they pay the full minimum wage first centrally. Best to leave a tip in cash...
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Surprise, surprise: Traffic lights are best [May. 6th, 2009|05:35 pm]


The independent investigation into the efficacy of the rival food labelling systems works has finally reported. Despite its boring title, the Nutrition Signpost Evaluation Project Management Panel (NSEPMP) has some important things to say.

NSEPMP was asked to find out which front-of-pack labelling system for salt, fat, saturates and sugar was best understood by shoppers seeking healthy food.

The answer, essentially, is the traffic light colours devised by the FSA (red for high levels of salt, fat, saturates, sugar; amber for medium; and green for low) together with its accompanying words High, Medium and Low. 

The Guideline Daily Amount percentage system less easily understood by consumers but favoured by a breakaway faction of junk food manufacturers should be incorporated into this traffic light scheme, the panel says. (This is something the FSA has long urged manufacturers to do if they think traffic lights don't work.)

The FSA and the Government now have all the evidence they could possibly need to force Tesco, Nestle, Danone, Mars and others to start using traffic lights.

The Conservatives expressed their previously unqualified and support for GDAs - something which I railed against in an angry blog.

Andrew Lansley, shadow health spokesman, appears to be sticking to his odd stance, despite today's compelling case for traffic lights. But there are signs he is softening his position. This is what he said today:

"We have consistently called for a simple, unified food labelling scheme to be developed that goes on the front of food packaging. We are clear that it should be based around providing Guideline Daily Amount indicators of things like fat and salt content, and that it could also include traffic light indicators if producers want to.

"Our focus should be on educating people about what constitutes a good diet or bad diet, rather than castigating people about what is good food and what is bad food.

"Labour have dithered over food labelling and have failed to secure consensus to set up a single scheme, which has led to several different indicators being set up causing confusion for consumers who want to try their best to eat a healthy diet."

Ahem, Andrew, I hardly think you have been doing much work on a "consensus". It's time for the Conservatives to give a green light to traffic lights; not take a wrong turning signposted by food manufacturers. 

In the meantime, take a bow those retailers who took a principled decision to back the best scheme: Sainsbury's, Asda, Marks & Spencer and Waitrose.

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Snap, crackle and sugar [Apr. 29th, 2009|11:13 am]

Which? is wheeling out breakfast cereals for a fresh bashing today. In its Cereal Offenders report the consumer group found 92 out of 100 cereals got an FSA amber or red light for sugar. They did better on salt, with 77 scoring red or amber.

Which? complained that 28 out of 28 cereals marketed at children were high in sugar - Kellogg's Ricicles, for instance had 37grams of sugar per 100 grams. Morrisons Choco Crackles, which Morrisons has reformulated, had 38g sugar per 100g.

Only one cereal scored green for all nutrients: sugar, salt, fat and saturated fat. Step foward Nestle Shredded Wheat, probably the most boring breakfast cereal invented.

There's a reason why they add salt and sugar to breakfast cereals... but we don't need as much sugar as the £1.37bn-a-year cereal industry is adding.
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'Colin' flops off the shelves [Apr. 22nd, 2009|11:38 am]


After pollack was renamed 'Colin' last week, shoppers have been snapping up the cod-like fish. Over the Easter week, Sainsbury's sold 68 per cent more Colin (pronounced Colan, according to the supermarket) across all its stores.

Limited edition packaging designed by Wayne Hemingway was trialled in just 10 stores. Not bad for a publicity stunt...


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Re-charge at the airport... [Apr. 15th, 2009|02:00 pm]

Sit down, still your heart and prepare for a shock: BAA has done something helpful. From today passengers can charge up mobile phones and iPods at 47 places around Heathrow - for free.
The 'power poles' are at terminals 1 and 3 and, soon, terminal 4.

I wonder if BAA has been stung by Which?'s survey which revealed that its airports are the least popular in the UK. Whatever it is, it's working.

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A topsy-turvy world [Apr. 14th, 2009|11:44 am]

The insurance industry's argument in today's Independent about the hikes in unemploment cover for mortgages is logical: the risk of joblessness has increased, so, naturally, insurers have had to increase premiums.

Norwich Union explained insurance to me. All the premiums go into a big pot and then the money is used to pay claims. Explaining the changes to payment protection insurance (PPI), he went on: "Ultimately we need to ensure there's enough money in the pot to pay the claims and in the current climate the number of claims has increased, so we need to increase rates to put more money into the pot."

Motor insurance works like this. According to the Competition Commission, 78 per cent of motor premiums are repaid to policy-holders. So insurers keep 12 per cent.

With PPPi, the situation is reversed. Insurers pay 14 per cent back to policyholders in claims and KEEP 86 PER CENT. Or rather, they give half the money to the banks which sold the rip-off insurance.

So in the good times insurers were making a mint out of PPI and in the bad times, well, you'll just have to pay for those, folks.
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