Jul 28th, 2022
6 mins

Government is adopting an ambitious and transformational approach to public sector food and catering. It’s determined to use public sector purchasing power to ensure positive change in the food system. The vision is that public sector food and catering is an exemplar to wider society in delivering positive health, animal welfare, environmental and socio-economic impacts.

The government have developed a set of proposed changes to public sector food and catering policy, including the Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering Services (GBSF), to deliver this vision.

Their objectives are to:

  1. Promote procurement of local, sustainable, healthier food and catering.
  2. Open up public sector supply chains to a wider range of companies, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to better support local economies, increase resilience, and encourage food producers to innovate.
  3. Increase transparency of food supply chains to drive continuous improvement and build our understanding of what is bought, served, sold and wasted in the public sector.
  4. Provide guidance and standards that:
    • are simple and engaging
    • reflect latest scientific evidence and national sustainability priorities
    • clearly align with broader Government policies, such as the Defra waste hierarchy guidance and Government dietary recommendations

The current Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering Services set out a range of mandatory and best practice standards for public sector organisations to apply when procuring food and catering services. These standards relate to food production, processing and distribution; nutrition; resource efficiency; and socio-economic considerations. Currently the GBSF is only mandatory within central Government Departments (e.g. catering in government buildings), the NHS (patient, staff and visitor catering in hospitals), the armed forces and prisons, as per the Procurement Policy Note (PPN) 10/14 published in November 2014.

The nutrition standards within the GBSF were recently reviewed, updated and published in July 2021 alongside supporting technical guidance. However, the other standards relating to social, economic and environmental sustainability and animal welfare have not been updated since 2014.The wider social and policy context has evolved since 2014, with a greater focus on net zero and levelling up – key drivers of the Government’s Plan for Growth. The standards therefore need updating to reflect these priorities.

In 2021, public sector food procurement was the subject of an inquiry within the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee and has been featured in Henry Dimbleby’s independent National Food Strategy Report. Recommendations from both reports include:

  • updating the buying standards to ensure procurement of healthy, sustainable food
  • making the standards mandatory across the entire public sector
  • improving and monitoring compliance with the standards
  • opening up supply chains to a wider range of businesses

These recommendations have been considered within the proposals of this consultation.

This consultation is expected to be of greatest interest to public sector contracting authorities, food business operators, the food industry, Government departments and agencies, local authorities, consumer groups and public bodies. The views of any individual or organisation that has an interest, directly or indirectly, are also very welcome.

The consultation contains questions across five sections:

  1. Some information about you
  2. Public sector organisations in scope
  3. Fair and transparent procurement guidance principles
  4. Changes to the government buying standards for food and catering services
  5. Data reporting proposals

Responses should be received by 11:59pm on 4th September 2022.

To find out more, or to respond to this consultation, please click here.


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