24 August 2009
The UK government must "lead by example" and introduce rules on sustainable food procurement, say campaigners.
It follows the publication of two critical reports which claim government food buying standards are a "mess" and departments are failing to record and monitor how much local produce they purchase.
Rural campaign group the Countryside Alliance submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to a number of central government bodies to discover how much British produce they bought for functions at 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." Countryside Alliance chief executive Simon Hart said the response was "simply not good enough".
Meanwhile, campaign group Sustain said public sector food procurement standards are "weak" and there is a "lack of political will" to improve. It quoted figures from a report by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which revealed only 8 per cent of tea and coffee purchased by the Department of Communities and Local Government last year was certified as fair trade.
Alex Jackson, spokesperson for Sustain's 'Good Food for Our Money' campaign, said the government must introduce regulations to stop public sector bodies purchasing produce from poorer countries and ensure more is spent with domestic suppliers.
A Defra spokeswoman said the government was doing "a lot of good work" on sustainable food buying.