Government departments criticised on food policy

11/08/2009 - 00:00
A government report, which was published yesterday and said consumers will need to buy local, British produce more frequently in the future, has stirred up criticism about the food sourced in government departments.

The attack follows the publication of a government report which shows that the public sector is buying "cheap produce from poor countries without any assurance that it has been traded ethically". The report shows that only 8% of tea and coffee purchased last year by the Department of Communities and Local Government was fair trade certified. At the Foreign Office, dignitaries and Heads of State who visited the UK between 2007 and 2008 are not likely to have been served fairly traded refreshments after it was revealed that only 18% of the tea and coffee purchased by the department met fairly or ethically traded accreditation. Alex Jackson spokesperson for the Good Food for Our Money campaign, said: "Buying food from poorer countries, without any assurance that is has been fairly traded, is the tip of the iceberg. Procurement standards are weak and not enforced and there is a lack of political will to improve. The food bought using our money should improve our health, our economy and the environment." In a leaked email sent from a senior purchaser who manages the tender process for the School Fruit and Vegetable scheme, it was revealed that criteria will not include sustainability or be used to support British farmers. The email also shows that public sector contracts are not including smaller, local suppliers in tenders for school fruit and vegetable contracts it make any tender "hugely complex" and "impossible to manage". Jackson added: "This leaked email is just one example of where the government is paying lip service to the 'Food Matters' agenda. The biggest single step the government can take to improve the healthiness and sustainability of our food system is to use the £2 billion of tax payer's money spent each year on food to help the environment and British farmers."

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