Local authority caterers in England are increasing their commitment to the Government's Public Sector Food Procurement Initiative (PSFPI), research has found.
According to the latest annual survey carried out on behalf of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), 86% of local authority caterers include sustainability in their food supply contracts (up from 78% in 2008).
Six out of every 10 authorities in England ensure their meat supply contracts are structured so that small and medium-sized companies and local suppliers are able to tender for all, or at least some part of the supply contract.
Tony Goodger, foodservice trade manager at BPEX (a subsidiary of AHDB), welcomed the findings: "It's particularly pleasing to see that progress towards the aims of PSFPI is accompanied by the increased use of the BPEX Quality Standard Mark for pork and pork products, and of the EBLEX Quality Standard mark for beef and lamb.
"The regular communication of consistent messages about the importance of assurance schemes for red meat is certainly having a positive effect and local authorities have increased their use of assurance marks," he added.
EBLEX foodservice project manager Hugh Judd shared this point of view, noting the increased use of Quality Standard mark beef, lamb and pork.
The number of authorities buying Halal meat was found to decline, with a possible explanation being that many find it complicated to implement and opt to serve their Muslim customers vegetarian meals.
Judd also revealed that EBLEX and BPEX have plans to introduce a ‘tool kit' later this year, designed both to help local authorities construct tender documents incorporating PSFPI criteria and to guide suppliers through the tendering process involved.
The public sector in England spends £2b on food and catering services, which the Government wants to use to help deliver a sustainable farming and food sector.
Among the key PSFPI objectives is to increase tenders from small and local producers and their ability to do business with local authorities as well as to improve the sustainability and efficiency of public food procurement and catering services.
By Janie Stamford
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