07 October 2009 | Allie Anderson
The UK Conservative party has said it will "lead by example" to ensure all central government departments buy more locally produced food.
Speaking at the party conference in Manchester yesterday, shadow environment secretary Nick Herbert said the government should purchase sustainable British produce without increasing costs.
He branded Labour's failure to back domestically produced food as "shameful": "Every year the public sector spends more than £2 billion on food. But not a single rasher of bacon served to our armed forces is British. The Treasury buys barely half of its food from Britain.
"All the evidence is that local food needn't cost more, in fact it often leads to savings."
The Tories have set up an advisory group that will be responsible for ensuring sustainable food procurement is adopted across the public sector. Zac Goldsmith, parliamentary candidate for Richmond Park, will head the taskforce.
Herbert said: "We don't want to stop here. We want to see hospitals, schools and local authorities buying food sustainably. We're taking this action because we care about local food and we care about the countryside."
Katrina Williams, director general of Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' food and farming group, last week admitted there was no clear strategy for the public sector food procurement initiative when it was launched in 2003 (Web news, 2 October)
Despite this, she argued, there is a lot of good practice regarding sustainable food purchasing in the public sector.
In August, campaigners slammed the government's food buying standards after two reports revealed its failure to record and monitor how much local produce it buys (News, 27 August 2009)