Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
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New figures show increased use of British produce in public sector food

New figures show increased use of British produce in public sector food

DEPARTMENT FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS News Release (News Release ref: 374/08) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 26 November 2008

Britain's hospital patients, civil servants, armed forces personnel and others eating in government establishments are being treated to menus that increasingly feature seasonal, home-grown food, Farming and Environment Minister Jane Kennedy said today.

Ms Kennedy said that the latest figures on the amount of British food used by the public sector showed that the Government was taking the necessary action to create a level playing field for local food producers and suppliers.

Ms Kennedy said:

"If you eat an egg in a hospital, government canteen or army barracks in Britain, that egg will be British, and the milk in your tea will almost certainly be British, which is the result of the Government's drive to buy more local produce and support local businesses.

"Small and local producers are the lifeblood of our food industry, and that's why we've made such an effort to increase the amount of local, seasonal food served by public bodies.

"Buying local food and eating with the seasons where it's possible reduces the impact on the environment and supports our businesses, and the government is looking even further at how to increase the amount of British food we buy and increasing the opportunities for small producers and suppliers to tender for government contracts."

Across the board, the proportion of British food used by government departments has increased since the first report, particularly among the big buyers. For example:

* The NHS Supply Chain now sources 70 per cent of its food from domestic sources, compared with 58.5 per cent a year ago.

* The Ministry of Defence has increased the amount of British produce it uses from 43 per cent in 2007 to 59 per cent in 2008.

* The National Offender Management Service (previously HM Prison Service) figures show an increase from 37 per cent to 49 per cent this year.

Figures for the proportion of domestically produced food used by Government departments also reveal that from 1 April 2007 to 31 March 2008:

* 100 per cent of eggs used by government departments were British.

* Almost 100 per cent of all milk supplied to Government Departments came from the UK.

* At least two thirds of all public sector menus use seasonal produce.

The report is part of the monitoring of the Public Sector Food Procurement Initiative (PSFPI), one of the key aims of which is to increase tendering opportunities for small and local food producers to help them win contracts to supply government departments and other public bodies.

Notes to Editors

1. Copies of the reports on the proportion of domestically produced food used by Government Departments for 2006/7 and 2007/8 are on the PSFPI web site at http://www.defra.gov.uk/farm/policy/sustain/procurement/awareness.htm

2. The reports also show the proportion of domestically produced food supplied to hospitals and prisons under contracts negotiated by the NHS Supply Chain and HM Prison Service.

3. Defra launched the Public Sector Food Procurement Initiative in August 2003, with the Prime Minister's support, to help deliver the Government's Sustainable Farming and Food Strategy.

4. Public procurement law regulates the purchasing by public sector bodies of contracts for goods, works or services. The law is designed to open up the EU's public procurement market to competition and to promote the free movement of goods and services. It does not allow public bodies to give greater weight to locally produced food and drink when deciding to award contracts. There is also an obligation on public bodies to award certain contracts, whether these are subject to the procurement rules or not, in line with certain EC Treaty principles, including the principle of non-discrimination, equal treatment, transparency, procedural fairness, mutual recognition and proportionality.

5. The legal and policy framework does however provide public bodies with the flexibility to be innovative in their procurement and, through the PSFPI, the Government is encouraging them to:

* Increase tendering opportunities for small and local producers, which can help achieve value for money for the taxpayer in support of UK public procurement policy by increasing competition in; and also

* Work in partnership with their contractors to similarly open up their supply chains where this is commercially viable.

6. Public procurement of food and catering accounts for £2 billion in England.

7. Key PSFPI objectives are to: promote food safety; increase the consumption of nutritious food; improve the sustainability and efficiency of production, processing and distribution; increase tenders from small and local producers; increase cooperation among buyers, producers and along supply chains; and improve the sustainability and efficiency of public food procurement and catering services.

8. Other important objectives cover consumer behaviour, organic food, animal welfare, fair treatment of suppliers and catering staff, and catering for ethnic minority, cultural and religious groups.

9. The Meat and Livestock Commission and now the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board have worked under the PSFPI to improve supplies of red meat into the public sector. It produced a DVD to promote less popular cuts of meat in the public sector and the Government Office for West Midlands and the Heart of England Fine Foods with Defra funding recently launched a cook book of recipes using less popular cuts. http://www.defra.gov.uk/farm/policy/sustain/procurement/word/meatyMealsForSchoolCooks20080929.doc

10. Defra continues to look for new ways to deliver the objectives of the PSFPI and has recently commissioned consultants to evaluate the PSFPI and recommend improvements. The report is due in February 2009.

11. More information is given on the PSFPI web site at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/farm/policy/sustain/procurement/index.htm. It contains the publication "Putting it into practice" that explains the issues to public bodies and what they need to do - http://www.defra.gov.uk/farm/policy/sustain/procurement/pdf/psfpi-putting-into-practice.pdf

12. The web site also provides advice to producers to encourage them to supply the public sector either directly or through first tier suppliers. http://www.defra.gov.uk/farm/policy/sustain/procurement/sellingpublic.htm. Defra is, for example, funding English Farming and Food Partnerships' "Share to Supply" programme to encourage and help farmers and food producers cooperate in supplying the public sector.

13. OGC's food commodity standards are published online at http://www.ogc.gov.uk/environment__sustainable_food.asp

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