DEFRA is conducting an impact assessment of proposals to introduce new government buying standards for food and catering products to “provide clarity and consistency” over procurement.

The standards will look to reduce the environmental impact of food and catering services procured by government and support a healthy, balanced diet for consumers at no extra cost to departments. The rationale for the proposed standards also includes harmonisation with European Green Public Procurement criteria.

The standards are mandatory for central government departments and related agencies, including the prison estate, court service and the armed forces.

The standards will not be mandatory for the wider public sector but it is intended that they will provide a model which public bodies will be encouraged to follow.

The finalised specifications will be submitted for ministerial approval and are expected to be published in March 2011, providing a three-month lead in time before the standards go live.

The Fresh Produce Consortium is canvassing its members on the standards with a deadline of

10 January 2011 for submissions.

Proposed specifications relating to fresh produce include an emphasis on in-season produce regardless of its country of origin or whether it is locally grown, farm-assured produce and an assurance that a portion of fruit is cheaper than a portion of hot or cold dessert.