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MP to lead review of food procurement

The UK Government has commissioned an independent review of food procurement in the public sector as part of a fresh push to improve standards.

The review will be carried out by Conservative MP Will Quince who worked in the food and drink industry prior to becoming an MP, and has since held ministerial roles at both the Department for Education and the Department for Health and Social Care.

Quince is tasked with looking at how the government can further promote high standards in areas such as animal welfare and environmental standards for food served in settings like hospitals and residential care homes.

He will also consider opportunities to extend the reach of the government buying standards for food and catering services (GBSF), particularly to education settings. Central government departments are required to adhere to the GBSF but other public bodies are only encouraged to do so.

The review has been announced even though a government response to a previous consultation on updates to public sector food and catering policy has yet to materialise more than 18 months after it closed. A key plank of the government’s original proposal was a target for 50% of public sector food spend, which totals over £2bn a year, to go on food produced locally or certified to higher environmental production standards.

Defra said it is continuing to analyse the consultation responses and will publish the government response in due course.

In his own review, Quince will also consider ways in which to improve public sector food and catering policy which fall beyond the scope of the GBSF. To achieve this, he plans to engage with a wide range of stakeholders across the supply chain for his review.

He will also explore ways to make the system more accessible to small- and medium-sized businesses and farmers.

“Public bodies spend around £5bn on food every year so it’s right that we look at opportunities to boost the impact food procurement has on the environment and the local community,” said Quince.

“Whether it’s schools, our armed forces, hospitals, prisons or local councils, I look forward to working with all those involved in the production, buying, cooking, serving and consumption of food in public bodies to identify the ways in which we can deliver on our commitments on climate, nature and health and considering the benefits of, and barriers to delivering food that is fresh, local and sustainable.”