By Christina Golding
Restaurateurs and caterers have a "moral and economic obligation" to source more ingredients locally, according to an industry report.
The study, compiled by the School of Leisure and Food Management at Sheffield Hallam University, says the hospitality industry could play a vital role in reducing pollution and saving energy by cutting the number of "food miles" that products travel before reaching the consumer.
An in-depth study of afour-star hotel in Sheffield showed that it was sourcing goods from 23 countries. These goods included green and red peppers from Holland, button mushrooms from Ireland and continental leaves from France.
Local growers, although no more expensive, were not being used.
The report recommends that staff should be trained to understand the importance of environmentally-friendly menu planning and purchasing.
Local forums, it says, should also be formed, so that hoteliers and restaurateurs can discuss ways to reduce food miles collectively.
But the study concedes the UK might not be geared up to providing the necessary variety of ingredients all year round.
Bruce White, food procurement director of Whitbread Restaurants, which includes Pizza Hut, Café Rouge and TGI Friday's in its portfolio, said there were other issues to consider.
"Our approach is to buy from the UK when possible but price, quality or volume are the deciding factors. When running a national chain you need to have the availability across the whole country," he said.