Life-saving allergy warnings now compulsory in restaurants

peanutsRestaurants, takeaways and ready-meals will all be required to provide allergy information under a new EU law which came into force last month

Over 2 million people in the UK suffer from food allergies. They must now be informed if their food contains any of 14 ingredients that cause severe allergies including nuts, milk, celery, gluten, soya and wheat.

South East MEP Catherine Bearder commented: “This new law will make a huge difference to the lives of people with severe allergies.  Chefs and their staff already know about these ingredients but they will now have to make it clear what allergens are present in their food at point of sale and could be fined it they don’t. Providing clearer information about ingredients will prevent the number of severe allergic reactions and save lives.”

The Hampshire-based Anaphylaxis Campaign, which helps severe allergy sufferers, also welcomed the changes.  Lynne Regent, CEO of the Anaphylaxis Campaign said: “We welcome these new EU regulations and we have been actively engaged in their implementation. These new rules will enable people living with severe food allergies to feel more confident, reassured and safe whilst eating out.”

North West Hants Lib Dem spokesman Len Gates, a technical manager in the food industry, added “This shows the important improvements to food safety which can be achieved through co-operation across Europe. Food manufacturers and ingredient suppliers already routinely record allergen information on ingredients and finished products. This information can and should be available to all consumers.”

Fluoride plans scrapped

Regular readers will know that Alamein Lib Dems have campaigned for years against fluoridation of local water supplies. See here  and here for more details.

Public Health England have now abandoned plans to add fluoride to the drinking water in southern Hampshire. Commenting on the decision Len Gates, who lead the campaign against the proposals at Test Valley, writes in today’s Andover Advertiser –

“I am pleased to see that Public Health England has scrapped plans to add fluoride to the water supplies in south Hampshire. The plan was opposed by over 70% of local residents and all the local authorities in the area. Among the councils against the plans was Test Valley and I am proud to have taken a lead in that opposition.”

“The pros and cons of fluoridation were discussed in great detail by councillors. The debate was free of personal and political animosity and concentrated on representing the wishes and best interests of local residents. Our conclusion was that fluoridation is an unproven, costly and unsafe over-reaction to a localised medical problem. What was, and still is, required is a targeted campaign to improve dental health where needed. The fluoridation plan was effectively medication of the entire population against their wishes.”

“This decision by PHE is really important. It matters not just in Hampshire but everywhere because it signals to health officials across the country that fluoridation cannot be imposed on an unwilling population. Congratulations to everyone who campaigned against the proposals. You have shown that common sense and public opinion can, and should, take precedence over misguided bureaucracy.”




Time to drop the Tory NHS Bill

I am pleased to see the Lib Dem Spring Conference has voted to oppose the government’s proposed changes to the NHS (BBC News today). As one of the delegates at last year’s conference who called on the government to think again on its proposals I fully support this decision. Despite many Lib Dem successes in rewriting this flawed plan the Tories have still to prove they really understand what the NHS is for and what the vast majority of people in this country expect of it and of them.

For a full analysis of how the bill has changed see the report by Dr Evan Harris here

We are governed by a coalition because the Tories didn’t win the last election – they couldn’t be trusted to run the country on their own. Lib Dem ministers have been very successful in curbing the lunatic fringe of the Tory party and stopping their idiotic excesses. They should now do the same with this bill. Coalition means government by consent and compromise.

There is no room for Tory dogmatists dictating policies to a country who totally reject those policies. There is no consensus for the changes proposed, they were not part of the coalition agreement, they are rejected by the health professions and by the majority of voters – everyone except the right wing of the Tory party. To continue to force these unaceptable and unworkable changes on the NHS is counterproduction. The bill should be scrapped now.

Huge Increase in Rat Catching Charges

The fee for Test Valley’s rat-catching service has has been increased by 50%. At the same time the number of people in the Test Valley area able to access the free Council rat-catching service has been drastically cut.
The decision was taken at a secret session of the Council’s Conservative Cabinet.
 At present, Test Valley Borough Council, which employs three full-time pest control officers, offers a free of charge service for families with small children, residents who live adjacent to rodent invested open land not in their ownership, residents with a disability and residents in receipt of means tested benefits. The vast majority of call outs fall into one of these categories. The charge, which is currently £40 for the remaining residents, covers a maximum of three visits to each affected premises.
But Test Valley’s Cabinet, meeting on Wednesday 16th February 2011, went into the secret session to decide that the £40 charge for rats and mice control should to be raised to £60, an increase of 50%. The Cabinet also decreed that the service will only be free to those people who are on Council Tax or Housing Benefit.
“It is acknowledged that Test Valley has an effective pest control department and even at the new pricing levels is competitive with the private sector”, says Romsey Councillor, Mark Cooper. “But to extend charging to a much wider proportion of local residents who have become used to the free service and then to increase the charge from £40 to £60 is a huge imposition on people who are already paying a huge amount of Council Tax. It’s a double whammy for residents. Services at County level are being cut; service charges at Borough level are being increased hugely above the inflation rate”.
“Such a large rise will reduce the public’s willingness to call out the pest-controllers and that could then result in run away numbers of rats especially if there’s a warm summer”.
Fees for other pest control services increase by similar amounts. Flea treatment for a 4-bed property is to increase from £53 to £70 and bedbug treatment from £53 to £85.
“The fact that these fee extensions and increases were dealt with in secret session suggests that TVBC was trying to get the increases in under the radar. They hoped no one would notice”.

Buses update #3

Hospital bus

On 29 June, the Winchester and Eastleigh Healthcare NHS Trust confirmed that they will not be extending the contract for the Andover Hospital Shuttle Bus service beyond 31 August 2010. The Trust has said that this was a difficult decision, but that it has been reached owing to the increasing financial constraints the current economic situation will place on public sector bodies. The passenger numbers whilst consistent, they say, are relatively low – an average of 2.97 passengers per journey.

The Trust has stated that ‘the improved Outpatients Department at Andover Hospital provides a different opportunity for local services, yet to be fully exploited, but this may, itself, reduce the need for patients to travel to Winchester.’ Test Valley council officers who are working to ensure all users have as much notice as possible so they can make alternative arrangements.

While I appreciate the Trust’s need to get value for money it is unacceptable to pull this service without first making sure all the patients using it have access to alternative means of getting to Winchester. I also wonder why the trust hasn’t looked at its running costs before closing the service. If they only have 3 passengers per journey surely a minibus or taxi would be cheaper than a bus.

I will be following this up with council officers and other interested organisations.

Fluoride campaign continues

The campaign against addition of fluoride to Hampshires water supply continues. On Friday an open letter was delivered to the South Central Strategic Health Authority calling on them to reconsider their decision to flouridate Southampton’s water supply. I was very pleased to add my name to that letter. The decision was made despite overwhelming  local opposition and can no longer be justified given the ever increasing medical evidence against the use of fluoride in what is compulsory mass medication. For full details of the letter follow the link below.

Fluoride letter to SHA 

Tories back anti-fluoride campaign (at last)

Andrew Lansley Conservative shadow health secretary has described consultations on fluoridation of Hampshire’s water “not real” and called for a referendum on the issue. In 2008 Test Valley Borough Council along with many other Hampshire authorities backed Lib Dem calls to reject proposals to add fluoride to local water supplies..

Lib Dem shadow health secretary and Romsey MP Sandra Gidley has welcomed his statement and added “It is just a shame that it has taken nearly a year for the Tory party leadership to make their opinion on a local referendum known.”

Toddler Trails

From 12 January the Askalot shop will be starting a new fun, free exercise program.

Toddler trails are new fun walks for mums, babies and toddlers. They will take place every Tuesday for six weeks iniitally. The walks will start at 10:00 am from the Askalot shop in King Arthur’s Way.

Walks will be about 45 mins -1 hour long, suitable for pushchairs and give you a chance to meet other mums while getting some fresh air and exercise. All ages are welcome! All walks will be accompanied by a trained Health Walk Leader. For more details, contact Eileen on 01794 527920 or Petra on 01264 358443.

February 3rd: These walks have proved to be a success and a further six are planned from Tuesday 23rd February (after half term) but starting at 1:30pm rather than 10:00am. Further details from Eileen or Petra as above.

MPs take fluoridation fight to Downing Street

Local MPs Sandra Gidley, Chris Huhne and Parliamentary Candidates Dave Callaghan and Dave Goodall have joined local campaigners fighting plans to add fluoride to Hampshire’s tap water, and delivered their views to the Prime Minister last week. Members of Hampshire Against Fluoridation took a petition containing 15,300 names calling for the controversial scheme to be scrapped to Downing Street.

Commenting, Lib Dem Shadow Public Health Minister, Sandra Gidley MP said: “The health authority were very selective with the evidence they took account of, ignoring much good evidence which proves that fluoride is good for teeth but doesn’t have to be put into the water. They also seemed to have ignored the fact that even the British Dental Association advise against giving fluoridated water to babies. The cost of fluoridation would also be huge. It would be far cheaper and more effective to provide toothpaste and brushes to those who can’t afford it rather than introducing a mass medication programme.”

Eastleigh MP Chris Huhne added: “The whole idea of a public consultation is that the public’s views are taken into account. Unfortunately the consultation undertaken by South Central SHA was nothing other than a PR exercise, as they chose to ride roughshod over the overwhelming opinion of the public. I hope that the Prime Minister will realise just how angry people in Hampshire are about these plans, and put a stop to them before a bad taste is left in the mouths of local people.” First published on Sandra Gidley’s website 9 June 2009.

SHA votes for fluoridation


Last Thursday The Board of South Central Strategic Health Authority voted to instruct Southern Water to fluoridate the local water supply. A copy of their press release is can be read via the following link

This decision was taken despite massive local opposition to the plan. I have written to Cllr David Drew, chair of Test Valley’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee stating that

“In doing this they ignored local opinion, the representations of Hampshire County Council, no votes by Test Valley and Eastleigh Borough Councils and similar no votes from town and parish council in the area.”

“Given the strong vote against fluoridation by Test Valley Borough Council will you please consider calling a representative of the South Central Strategic Health Authority to explain their decision to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.”

I look forward to his response.