Two new reviews will look into improving public food access and fairer labelling

Government efforts to improve public food procurement and food labelling have taken a step forward with two announcements this week.

Defra secretary Steve Barclay

Defra secretary Steve Barclay

Image: Richard Townshend

Defra secretary of state Steve Barclay has appointed MP and former lawyer Will Quince as an independent adviser to support the government’s ongoing work to improve food procurement in the public sector.

His review aims to find ways to make the system more accessible to small and medium-sized businesses and farmers, as well as boosting animal welfare and environmental standards.

It will also look at how the government can further promote high standards for food and catering services, for example in hospitals or local authority settings, such as residential care, and consider opportunities to extend the reach of the existing framework - the Government Buying Standard for Food and Catering Services (GBSF) - particularly to education settings.

And it will explore how more compliance with the GBSF can be achieved, or have institutions go above and beyond in areas like nutrition or waste prevention.

Quince worked in the food and drink industry prior to becoming an MP, and has since held ministerial roles at both the Department for Education and the Department for Health and Social Care. Defra said he will engage with stakeholders across the public sector food and catering supply chain and will also examine international practices.

Fairer food labelling

Meanwhile, Barclay also unveiled plans to give shoppers more information about how and where their food is produced and ensure British farmers’ products get the recognition they deserve.

The proposals for fairer food labelling will ensure greater transparency around the origin of food and methods of production, helping consumers make decisions that align with their values, according to Barclay.

The consultation looks at how to improve country of origin labelling for certain goods, including how and where the information is displayed and what products should be included. Primarily targeted at meat and eggs, it is not yet clear whether fresh produce will fall under the remit.

Barclay said: “This government backs British farmers, who work hard to produce food to world-leading standards and maintain our nation’s food security. British consumers want to buy their produce, but too often products made to lower standards abroad aren’t clearly labelled to tell them apart.

“That is why I want to make labelling showing where and how food is produced fairer and easier to understand - empowering consumers to make informed choices and rewarding our British farmers for producing high-quality, high-welfare food.”