Sustainable Food Guide
|Environmental Practice at Work © 2005
|Procure Local Produce...
There are EU procurement directives, and related UK Regulations, that are designed to ensure that public procurement is fair, transparent and non-discriminatory.
A consequence of this approach is that the distance travelled to deliver food, or the locality in which it is produced, cannot be a specific factor in awarding the contract. This would be discriminatory.
This helps explain why schools, hospitals, and care homes rarely provide fresh local food.
However this doesnt seem to stop others in Europe helping their countryside. We need to develop a more imaginative use of contracts.
Some attempts have been made to encourage national consumption, without actually saying so, by using the national flag colours. Most notable among these is the "Little Red Tractor" scheme, whose logo is red, white and blue. Unfortunately this logo doesnt guarantee British produce, as food can be sourced outside the UK and still attract the logo - provided it has been produced to "UK standards".
The French resorted to labelling food: "Not made in France". Attempts have been made to introduce a law which would have made it legal to stick a "British" label on British food - and illegal to put it on food from anywhere else.
ASDA (click "All about ASDA") is challenging the extent of the law with its "Buy British" campaign.
Public sector contracting authorities can set reasonable requirements for delivery frequencies, freshness, taste etc. These criteria may give local suppliers a competitive advantage, but provided a foreign supplier is not denied an opportunity to compete on equal terms, then such criteria are legitimate.
While this may be applied to the food product, it is unlikely suppliers can only employ local labour - because that would be a discriminatory condition. More in the EU interpretative document on social issues in public procurement (pdf).
"Regional food" can be promoted as regional food has distinctive characteristics. It is perfectly legal to ask for "Eccles Cakes" - because people other than those in Eccles are allowed to make the food. Such foods do not have 'protected' status. Others, such as Stilton Cheese, and more recently Melton Mowbray Pork Pies, can only be bought from the protected area (for more about locally protected food status, see quiz in left hand margin). Why shouldn't there be all sorts of local - distinctive - food products? e.g Yorkshire Rhubarb.
The UK Office of Government Commerce has issued procurement policy guidance (pdf) to all Whitehall Departments to help them promote a policy of "Fair Trade" without contravening EU rules. It concludes:
|Photos courtesy of http://www.usda.gov