Food and farming minister Jim Paice has vowed to take immediate action to raise food buying standards in Defra, after it emerged that his own department had missed new government targets on food buying.

Government departments are meant to source 10% of primary commodities to higher environmental standards, such as organic or LEAF-certified. But Defra managed just 3%, according to a report issued yesterday by the department.

Defra also admitted improvements were needed to how fish was sourced for the department. Although none of the fish supplied through its caterers was from MSC ‘fish to avoid’ lists, some of the fish was “borderline”, it said. Defra has now asked its caterers to address this “as a matter of priority”.

“We’ve said that all food served in Defra should meet UK standards of production and that all of our fish must come from sustainable sources, and I’m not prepared to accept anything less,” Paice said in response to the report.

“These are not optional extras. It’s completely unacceptable for our caterers to miss any target and I’m going to make sure this is sorted out immediately.”

New government buying standards were proposed by Defra in June and came into force on 16 September. The next update on its performance is due in December.

Read more
Paice checks out 3663’s ecosystems (3 September 2011)
Industry slams ‘hypocrisy’ of government food standards (analysis; 25 June 2011)