The Obesity Awareness and Solutions Trust

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TOAST is a charity which acts as a front for the weight loss industry. As of the end of November 2007 it announced it was to close.

By early December 2007 the TOAST website was suggesting another website to people. When accessed on 4 December 2007 the TOAST website had the following: "You may also like to contact fathappens (buddypower.net) at www.fathappens.com." This is a web based support forum set up by Anne Diamond (Patron of TOAST) to enable overweight people who want to become slimmer to share views and find supportive friends. Previously called "fathappens" it changed its name on 29 October 2007 to "buddypower" The buddypower site also carries podcasts from LighterLife UK Limited, [1]

Accessed on 12 December the TOAST website was carrying links to the following organisations:

TOAST history

In 2005 it launched a new website in which it claimed that it was an independent organisation:

TOAST is a completely independent Charity. (The Obesity Awareness & Solutions Trust: Charity Reg No: 1088049). It derives its income from individual donations and membership fees from those who wish to support its work for the benefit of those living and working with obesity. Whilst TOAST also receives support from time to time from pharmacuetical companies and other organisations dealing with obesity and weight loss issues, it remains an autonomous organisation, operating on an impartial basis, free from all external control.[2]

Finances

However, its accounts for the year ending September 2006 showed a revenue nature of £247,705. This included a donation from LighterLife UK Limited of £196,000. [3]

  • In September 2003 TOAST published accounts showing a gross income of £60,950. Of this,£40,650 was from an unspecified donor. £10,579 was spent on PR and £11,280 was spent on consultancy fees.
  • In September 2004 TOAST published accounts showing a gross income of £69,950. Of this, £61,500 was donated by the Obesity Lifeline Limited (the previous name for LighterLife). £5,783 was spent on PR and £11,702 was spent on consultancy fees.
  • In September 2005 TOAST published accounts showing a gross income of £164,383. Of this £146,500 was from LighterLife. £17,999 was spent on PR and £13,780 was spent on consultancy fees.[4]
  • In September 2006 TOAST published accounts showing a gross income of £225,048. Of this £196,000 was from LighterLife. £12,575 was spent on PR and £9,844 was spent on consultancy fees.[5]

TOAST to close

TOAST is to cease operation following 10 years of advocacy and the promotion of Obesity Awareness. According to their website

"TOAST has effectively achieved its objectives of raising awareness of Obesity as one of the most significant health concerns of the 21st Century. However, The Trustees have unanimously agreed that the task of finding the solutions to the problem is too large for a charity of this size. TOAST has successfully advanced the debate and we are now handing over the complex task of finding the solutions to other agencies better positioned to carry this out." [6]

Unclear links with Parliamentarians

TOAST listed a large number of parliamentary patrons (see below). However some of these have commented that they either did not know they were listed as patrons and had not agreed to be patrons. These included Jim Dowd who stated that he had not agreed to be a patron.[7] Pauline Perry (Baroness Perry) stated 'They pursued me relentlessly for a meeting, which I declined! I had no idea that they were so substantially financed by Lighterlife.'[8] Frederick Howe (Earl Howe) wrote:

You ask whether I was previously aware that donations to TOAST were from LighterLife UK Ltd. I was certainly not aware of this, nor, until your letter arrived, had I heard of Lighterlife. In my meetings with TOAST over the years (latterly with Louise Diss, who has now left the organisation) the subject of funding has regularly come up. I was always given the impression that a large element of the charity's budget was met by a mixture of membership fees, grants from charitable trusts and a grant from the Department of Health: clearly this was not so.[9]

Lord Walton of Detchant noted that 'I was not aware that LighterLife UK Limited had given such substantial support to TOAST, a charity of which I agreed to be a Patron several years ago. this financial information is completely new to me.[10] According to Baroness Masham of Ilton 'As far as I know I have not heard of any connection between LighterLife and TOAST, but I have not been to all the meetings, as so many of these coincide with other things.'[11] Adrian Sanders MP stated: 'I was not aware of any connection between Lighterlife and TOAST.'[12]. Ian Gibson MP stated:

I was absolutely not aware of this connection and my initial reaction is to be pretty cheesed off. I am also very concerned about the origin of these large donations. It can be necessary when campaigning in healthcare to accept money from large, often pharmaceutical, companies. The annual conference of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer of which I am Chair is an example. However we take equal amounts of unrestricted sponsorship money from a number of sources which we then clearly publicise. If it emerges that the TOAST money has come from one source and that people with vested interests have been involved then there is cause for concern.[13]
Northover became a patron of TOAST through her involvement as Lib dem health spokesperson. She says she was unaware of the link between TOAST and the diet company LighterLife: 'No, this commercial link was not mentioned to me.'[14] She was invited to join TOAST in 2004.
Invitation to join TOAST as a Patron

Obesity Awareness Week

The UK Obesity Awareness Week was held in March 2007. The event was started by TOAST in 1998. This year TOAST had several events planned including the opening of a Community Gardening project in Ingatestone, Essex, highlighting an alternative solution to weight loss, a Parliamentary Reception at the Palace of Westminster and the announcement of the David Kennedy Memorial Award 2007, launch of a new Kids website and the announcement of a new awareness initiative for 2007/8. The parliamentary reception was held in the House of Common's Terrace Marquee on 15th March. The event was sponsored by David Amess MP, a longstanding supporter and patron of TOAST. The event was addressed by the Health Minister Caroline Flint who outlined the Government's plans to tackle obesity and improve the services available. She also acknowledged TOAST's contribution towards helping those who are overweight and obese and developing better services to support them. Over 100 people attended the event, including a number of parliamentarians and officials as well as wide range of other stakeholders representing the public, voluntary and commercial sectors. [15]


Government grants

In May 2004,in the House of Commons, David Amess raised the issue of Government funding for TOAST having been withdrawn. Amess told the house " Jackie Cox and other members of The Obesity Awareness and Solutions Trust came to my surgery to discuss obesity. I raised the matter in the Health Committee....Members of the Committee agreed to an inquiry, the report of which has been published today.... TOAST inspired the Health Committee to conduct its inquiry, but its funding has been withdrawn under section 64 of the Health Services and Public Health Act 1968. It had tremendous plans to build a centre of excellence, the TOAST house, to run a mobile drop-in centre and to produce the "TOASTbites" journal..." [16]

In June 2004, Chris Grayling directly asked in the House of Commons, why TOAST had not received any money under the section 64 grant scheme. He was told by Melanie Johnson that "The Department has supported the work of The Obesity Awareness and Solutions Trust (TOAST) for two years (2001–02 to 2002–03) through the Department's Section 64 Grant Scheme.Due to an administrative oversight, they did not apply for funding for 2003–04 but made an application for 2004–05 for three years. A large number of applications were received for funding from April 2004 which resulted in intense competition for limited funds. This has resulted in a number of applications being rejected, including the applications from TOAST."[17] However, eight days later Lord Morris of Manchester asked the same question in the House of Lords. The reply he received was that there had been a large number of applications, resulting in intense competition and so TOAST had being rejected.[18]

Section 64 grants are discretionary grants that the Secretary of State for Health, through the Section 64 General Scheme of Grants (S64 of the Health Services and Public Health Act 1968), has the power to grant to voluntary organisations in England whose activities support the Department of Health's policy priorities. [19]

At the time these questions were being asked Jacqueline Sandra Ann Cox, who was personally lobbying MPs, was a member of both TOAST and LighterLife UK Limited and LighterLife UK Limited was giving donations to TOAST.

E-mail correspondence from the Department of Health, received 21 January 2008, confirms that TOAST received £40,000 in 2001-2 and £40,000 in 2002-3 in Government grants..[20]

Lobbying

In 2006 TOAST claimed on its website that it had been successful in what it called 'lobbying':

We have been extremely successful in raising obesity in the political arena and it was TOAST, together with other lobbyists, that was responsible for the All Party Select Committee on Obesity being formulated.[21]

PR/Lobbying strategy

According to their PR agency:

The Obesity Awareness and Solutions Trust (TOAST) is a national charity (Reg. No. 1088049) dedicated to encouraging a better understanding of obesity, its causes and practical solutions through stimulating informed debate about and research into obesity. TOAST has also developed a range of supportive services including a helpline and training packages designed to advice and support those affected by obesity. TOAST felt that not enough action was being taken to address these issues and TOAST wanted the opportunity to put pressure both on politicians and officials to find practical solutions.
Our Strategy
Whitehouse Consultancy initially sought to raise TOAST's profile in and around Westminster with key officials and Parliamentarians. Through targeted meeting programmes and annual receptions in the Houses of Parliament we ensured that TOAST had face to face contact with the people who matter. We have also assisted in the tabling of Early Day Motions and numerous parliamentary questions which have been most successful in garnering cross-party support and proved invaluable in further increasing TOAST’s support base.
As a result of their sustained acitivty, TOAST can now count on cross-party support from Members of Parliament and as such have been mentioned numerous times on the floor of both Houses of Parliament. They are also regular participants at meetings of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Obesity and have contributed to the Department of Health’s ‘Choosing Health’ consultations and the ongoing National Institute for Clinical Excellence Guidelines on Obesity. These have ensured that their message has been spread as widely as possible amongst the key decision makers and Parliamentarians in the field.
Outcome
Through their presence and efforts in and around Westminster, TOAST now command a high profile and are widely recognised as one of the leading players in the debate on obesity. TOAST has also acquired a number of high profile Parliamentary patrons from the health field, who are all invaluable in maintaining TOAST's momentum in their future work programme. TOAST has been extremely successful in raising obesity in the political arena and together with other lobbyists played a major role in the initiation of the House of Commons Health Select Committee inquiry into Obesity to which TOAST gave both oral and written evidence. Thanks to TOAST obesity is now firmly placed high upon the public policy agenda.[22]


NICE TOAST

In 2001, while directors of both TOAST and Lighterlife, Bar Hewlett and Jacqueline Cox gave evidence to the National Institute for Clinical Excellence(NICE) on the use of Orlistat the obesity drug. [23] Orliostat is a drug recommended by the National Obesity Forum. [24]


People

Staff

  • Corinne Thompson[25]
  • Louise Diss is listed as the main contact person for TOAST on the charities commission website. [26] On 30 October 2007 she shared a platform with Dr Susan Jebb at a Wellcome sponsored discussion of obesity. Diss was described as having recently left the post of development worker for TOAST. [27]

Directors

Patrons

Parliamentary Patrons

  • David Amess was a member of the Health Select Committee during the inquiry into obesity 2003 - 2004
  • John Austin MP is the Labour MP for Erith and Thamesmead. Previously a community and social worker, he was National Chairman of the Association of Community Health Councils for England and Wales. He served on the Health Select Committee for eleven years until 2005. Was a member of the Health Select Committee during the inquiry into obesity 2003 - 2004
  • Jim Dowd MP is the Labour MP for Lewisham West. Previously a Government Whip, he has been a member of the Select Committee on Health since 2001. Was a member of the Health Select Committee during the inquiry into obesity 2003 - 2004
  • Dr Ian Gibson MP is the Labour MP for Norwich North. Following a distinguished academic career in biology, he has been a member of the Science and Technology Select Committee since 1997, and was chairman from 2001 to 2005. Ian is also, Secretary to the All-Party Medical Technology Group, Vice-chair of the All-Party Food and Health Forum Group, Vice-chair of the All-Party Medical Research Group and Treasurer of the All-Party Scientific Committee Group. http://www.iangibsonmp.co.uk
  • Sandra Gidley MP is the Liberal Democrat MP for Romsey. She is currently the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Health, and a member of the Select Committee on Health. Was a member of the Health Select Committee during the inquiry into obesity 2003 - 2004. Sandra is also Chair of the All-Party Health Group, All-Party Mental Health Group and Vice-chair of the All-Party Men's Health Group. http://www.sandragidley.org
  • Cheryl Gillan MP is the Conservative MP for Chesham and Amersham. A previous member of the Science and Technology Select Committee, she is now Vice-chair of the All-Party Diabetes Group. http://www.epolitix.com/EN/MPWebsites/Cheryl+Gillan/home.htm
  • Chris Grayling MP is the Conservative MP for Epsom and Ewell. Currently the Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, he was previously Conservative spokesman on Nutrition, Obesity and Complimentary Healthcare. http://www.chrisgrayling.net
  • Dr Brian Iddon MP is the Labour MP for Bolton South East. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, and a member of the Select Committee on Science and Technology. He is also a member of the Health and Social Services Backbench Committee and the Westminster Diet and Health Forum. Brian has announced that he will stand down from Parliament at the next general election. http://www.brianiddon.org.uk
  • Lynne Jones MP is the Labour MP for Birmingham Selly Oak. She served on the Select Committee on Science and Technology for nine years until 2001 and now Chairs the All-Party Group on Mental Health. http://www.lynnejones.org.uk
  • Tim Loughton MP is the Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham. He is currently Conservative Shadow Minister for Children and Health http://www.timloughton.com
  • Fiona Mactaggart is the Labour MP for Slough. A former Minister in the Home Office, she is now a member of the Select Committee on Education and Skills. http://www.fionamactaggart.labour.co.uk
  • Adrian Sanders is the Liberal Democrat MP for Torbay. He is the Lib Dem Deputy Chief Whip and Chair of the All-Party Diabetes Group. http://www.adriansanders.org
  • David Tredinnick is the Conservative MP for Bosworth. He is Chair All-Party Integrated and Complementary Healthcare Group
  • Christopher Haskins is a crossbench Life Peer.
  • Earl Howe is the Conservative Spokesperson for Health in the Lords. He is also Treasurer of the Cross Party Group on Cardiac Risk in the Young.
  • Baroness Masham of Ilton is a Crossbench Life Baroness. She is a fellow of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, Chair of the Cross Party Health Group and Patient and Public Involvement in Health Group, and Vice-chair of the Obesity Group and Men's Health Group.
  • Baroness Miller is the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. She is a member of the Cross Party Food and Health Forum Group. Her publications include Hungry for Change - A UK Food Policy, published in 2004.
  • Baroness Northover is the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for International Development. She has lectured on the History of Twentieth Century Medicine at University College London and the Wellcome Institute and served as Lib Dem health spokesperson for 2 years. She is a patron of Breast Cancer Campaign
  • Baroness Perry of Southwark is a Conservative Life Peer. She is a member of the Lords Science and Technology Select Committee and was previously a non-executive board member of the Addenbrooke NHS Trust.
  • Lord Skelmersdale is the Conservative Spokesperson for Work and Pensions. He was the Opposition Spokesperson for Health from 2003-04.
  • Baroness Tonge is a Liberal Democrat Life Baroness. A former Doctor specialising in General Practice and Family Planning, she is now Vice-chair of the Cross Party Pharmacy Group and Health Group.
  • Lord Walton of Detchant is a Crossbench Life Peer. Following a career as a Doctor specialising in neurology, he has been a member of the Lords Select Committees on Science and Technology and Medical Ethics.[30]

Affiliations

PR/Lobbying Agencies

Resources

Contact

http://www.toast-uk.org/

Notes

  1. http://fathappens.com/podcasts_list/ accessed 4 December 2007
  2. TOAST Homepage, 12 June 2005, retrieved from the Internet Archive dated 1 July 2005, accessed 30 November 2007
  3. The Obesity Awareness and Solutions Trust Limited Report and Financial Statements For the year ended 30 September 2006 Registered Charity Number 4664883, accessed 29 November 2007
  4. http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/registeredcharities/showcharity.asp?remchar=&chyno=1088049 TOAST annual accounts 2005, accessed 1 December 2007
  5. http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/registeredcharities/ScannedAccounts%5CEnds49%5C0001088049_AC_20060930_E_C.PDF TOAST annual Accounts 2006, accessed 15 December 2007
  6. TOAST Home page, accessed 29 November 2007
  7. Telephone conversation between Jim Dowd and David Miller, 18 December 2007
  8. Email From: Lady Perry [mailto:[deleted]] To: David Miller Subject: TOAST Sent: Wed 12/19/2007 4:56 PM
  9. From: HOWE, Earl [1] To: David Miller Subject: TOAST Sent: Mon 12/17/2007 9:23 PM
  10. Lord Walton of Detchant, Letter to David Miller, 21 December 2007
  11. Baroness Masham of Ilton, letter to David Miller, January 7, 2008
  12. Adrian Sanders, letter to David Miller, January 7, 2008
  13. Ian Gibson, letter to David Miller, January 8, 2008
  14. Email to David Miller, 17 January 2008, 17.22
  15. http://www.ich.ucl.ac.uk/publications/roundabout/march/obesity.html Great Ormond Street Hospital & Institute of Child Health website March 2007,accessed 12 December 2007
  16. House of Commons Hansard Minutes of proceedings, 27 May 2004, accessed 12 December 2007
  17. House of Commons Hansard Minutes of Proceedings, 9 June 2004, accessed 12 December 2007
  18. House of Lords Hansard Minutes of Proceedings, 17 June 2004, accessed 12 December 2007
  19. http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Policyandguidance/Organisationpolicy/Financeandplanning/Section64grants/DH_4032519 Department of Health website accessed 12 December 2007
  20. From Edward Corbett, Department of Health ref: DE00000264212, [2] To: Mary Craig Subject Section 64 Grants to TOAST Sent: Mon 21 January 2008 11:42
  21. TOAST Home Page, retrieved from the Internet Archive dated 4 January 2006, accessed 30 November 2007
  22. Whitehouse Consultancy Case Studies The Obesity Awareness & Solutions Trust (TOAST) Case Study, accessed 17 November 2007
  23. National Institute for Clinical Exellence NICE Guidelines Use of Orlistat for Obese adults March 2001, accessed 4 December 2007
  24. NOF Statement Anti-obesity Medication November 2007, accessed 29 November 2007
  25. http://www.toast-uk.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=212&Itemid=116, accessed 17 November 2007
  26. http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/registeredcharities/showcharity.asp?remchar=&chyno=1088049 accessed 13 December 2007
  27. Wellcome Trust Fat Britain: Who is responsible for UK's Obesity crisis? 29 October 2007, accessed 13 December 2007, link updated 12 October 2010
  28. http://www.laureledmunds.com/about.php , accessed 29 November 2007
  29. Charity commission TOAST Trustees, accessed 29 November 2007
  30. This list of patrons is still (as of 17 December 2007) on the TOAST website: Parliamentary Patrons, accessed 17 December 2007.