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25 August 2014  

British Government issues new food procurement plan, emphasises importance of local food

The UK government has recently published a new plan for public procurement of food, broadening the focus of procurement to include criteria such as seasonality, nutrition and sustainability. The framework includes a scorecard and procurement toolkit, aiming to help public sector agencies make better informed purchasing decisions when buying catering surfaces. An online procurement portal will allow suppliers to register their services or products and check them against the procurement scorecard.

The Government Buying Standard (GBS) has also been revised to increase minimum standards of production and to ensure that procurers or catering companies have systems in place to check on the authenticity of food. The British public sector spends about £2.4bn per annum procuring food and catering services, which represents approximately 5.5 percent of UK food service sector sales. It is hoped that increased transparency and consistency in food purchasing will enable farmers and SMEs to enter the market and bid for public contracts.

Although the Plan claims to be in compliance with EU procurement law, the focus on 'buying British' within the document could lead to legal challenges over the principle of non-discrimination within the single European market. This ensures that bidders from all EU member states have equal opportunity to apply for a public contract. Although supporting local producers can have positive sustainability effects, European legislation needs to be considered.

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