07 August 2009 | Jake Kanter
Some UK government departments are failing to record and monitor how much local food they buy, an investigation by the Countryside Alliance has found.
The lobbying group submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to a number of bodies to discover how much British produce they purchased for functions at important government residences in the past year.
The Cabinet Office, which is responsible for 10 Downing Street and Chequers, said: "There is no information on whether the proportion of food procured in the past 12 months was domestically produced."
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office was unable to provide any data for two of its well-known offices. Neither could the Treasury, which runs 11 Downing Street, but it said the two main catering suppliers it uses for official functions source between 70 and 90 per cent of their food within the UK.
The response was "simply not good enough", said Simon Hart, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance. "The failure of 10 Downing Street to record or monitor the provenance of the food they are serving to visitors is particularly galling and shows that the procurement of British food and its promotion is, despite his own Secretary of State's calls, not being taken seriously by the prime minister.
"The government's official residences, in particular, offer a unique opportunity for ministers to promote all that is best about British farming to their high profile and influential guests."
The UK public sector spends £2 billion a year on food and catering services and the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs' Public Sector Food Procurement Initiative (PSFPI) encourages government bodies to purchase domestic produce.
A report on progress into the PSFPI last year found that many government bodies have increased local purchasing schemes since 2007 (News, 11 December 2008).