Food Standards in the Public Sector

I know that the Government advocates for a healthy balanced diet, based on the national food model the Eatwell Guide. It is clear that our diets should include more fibre, fruit and vegetables, but that meat and dairy can both be an important part of a balanced diet. I know that the Government will consider the evidence of Henry Dimbleby’s Independent Review and will work to identify new opportunities to make the food system healthier, more sustainable, more resilient, and more accessible for those across the UK.

I welcome that ministers want to promote seasonal and local produce, encourage variety in diets and support local businesses. I know that this includes promoting the high standards of British produce. My ministerial colleagues are refreshing public sector food procurement to place a greater emphasis on local, seasonal and sustainable produce. This will support local business and can play a key role in promoting healthy diets and reducing environmental impacts of food supply. A consultation on strengthening the Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering Services is due to be launched in early 2022.

My ministerial colleagues and I are clear that all children should be able to enjoy healthy food at school every day and develop healthy eating habits that will stay with them throughout their lives. I am encouraged, therefore, that Schools Food Standards provide a legislative framework to ensure schools provide children with healthy food and drink options, and to make sure that children get the energy and nutrition they need across the school day.

The standards allow school cooks to source seasonal or local food, take advantage of price fluctuations, or create dishes that suit their particular talents, which they can be confident are also nutritionally sound. Further, schools must provide fruit and vegetables every day, at least three different types each week and no more than two portions of deep-fried food a week. For several types of food, such as salt, fruit juice and starchy food cooked in oil, the standards are tighter.

I am assured that the NHS must meet the requirements of the Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering Services. Further, I know that the Independent Hospital Food Review, published in October 2020, made recommendations for improving hospital food for patients. I understand that an expert panel is now in place to implement these recommendations.

Finally, the UK’s food standards, for both domestic production and imports, are overseen by the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland. They continue to provide advice to the UK and Scottish governments in order to ensure that all food imports comply with the UK’s high safety standards.