Departmental Food

Health written question – answered on 30th March 2010.

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Photo of Adrian Sanders Adrian Sanders Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will take steps to ensure that the meat and dairy products procured by his Department and its non-departmental bodies are free range or produced to standards equivalent to those of the RSPCA Freedom Food scheme.

Photo of Phil Hope Phil Hope Minister of State (the East Midlands), Regional Affairs, Minister of State (the East Midlands), Department of Health

Guidance produced under the Public Sector Food Procurement Initiative encourages and shows public sector bodies how they can specify higher animal welfare standards, including farm assurance schemes and higher level schemes such as the RSPCA's Freedom Foods standards.

In February 2008, The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) alerted public bodies to the Government's commitment to the 2012 deadline for an European Union-wide ban on the use of conventional cages for laying hens, so that buyers recognised the welfare benefits of alternative production systems, compared with conventional cages and would reflect this in any future contracts. DEFRA have also developed contract award criteria that give a higher weighting to pig meat meeting higher-level welfare standards.

Staff restaurant and hospitality catering for departmental staff is provided by Quadrant Catering and Eurest Services. Both of whom are part of Compass Group UK and Ireland, one of the United Kingdom's largest contract caterers. Compass aim to provide as much ethically sourced food as is possible as part of these catering and hospitality services.

The Compass Group see ethical sourcing as a combination of factors, which range from ensuring sustainability to animal welfare and endorse the Farm Animal Welfare Council's Five Freedoms concept. They provide full traceability of products and suppliers within their approved supply chain to ensure animals reared for meat, fish, milk and eggs are raised to high standards of animal welfare. This year, Compass Group ran a farm to fork outdoor-reared, free-range pork project.

We are not able to comment on plans for food procured by our non-departmental bodies, as this information is not held centrally and to provide this would be at disproportionate cost.

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