A third of the money spent by hospitals on food goes to items that are thrown away © Photo by Jeremy Selwyn / POOL / AFP via GettyImages
A third of the money spent by hospitals on food goes to items that are thrown away © Photo by Jeremy Selwyn / POOL / AFP via GettyImages

Half of public sector food spend 'should go on local produce'

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
13 June 2022

Public procurement should “lead by example” to promote healthier and more sustainable food, according to the UK government’s Food Strategy.

In a white paper the government said it had a vision of public sector food and catering as “an exemplar for wider society, delivering positive health, animal welfare, environmental and socio-economic impacts”.

The government said it will consult on an “ambition” of ensuring 50% of public sector food expenditure is spent on “food produced locally or to higher environmental standards… while maintaining value for money for taxpayers”.

It will also consider making the Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering Services (GBSF) mandatory across the public sector.

A government-commissioned review led by restaurateur Henry Dimbleby concluded last year that “much of the food served by public bodies is bad” with a third of the money spent by hospitals on food going on items that are thrown away.

In 2021 MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said public food procurement represented a £2bn annual spend but criticised GBSF as “poorly monitored and enforced”. They called for GBSF to be made compulsory but were unhappy with an exemption within the rules that allows non-UK food and lower animal welfare standards in the event of a “significant increase in costs”.

The white paper said: “We will consider widening the scope of the [GBSF] policy to be mandatory across the whole public sector.

“We will also support the sector to work with more small and local suppliers, implement new policy measures, and explore using an assurance scheme to drive continuous improvement on a local level and recognise high-performing institutions. 

“To improve accountability and inform future policy changes, we will require public organisations to report on the food they buy, serve and waste in a similar way as we will expect large companies to report on food sales.”

The white paper said a mandatory methodology would be developed that must be used by companies making sustainability claims about products.

The government will also “explore” extending emissions reporting requirements for large companies – which are currently limited to direct scope one and two emissions –  to include scope three supply chain emissions.

And a consultation will take place on improved food waste reporting for large companies.

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