Press release

Let them eat hake, Government takes lead in buying sustainable fish

The standards for all food procured by Government departments and their agencies will come into force for all new catering contracts from September 2011.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


All fish served in Government departments and their agencies will come from sustainable sources, through the new Government Buying Standards announced today.

The standards for all food procured by Government departments and their agencies will come into force for all new catering contracts from September 2011 and require that

  • all food should be produced to UK or equivalent production standards where this does not increase overall costs;
  • more food must be produced to higher environmental standards;
  • that at least 50 per cent of tea and coffee must be fairly traded;
  • that fresh produce should be seasonal; and
  • food waste must be minimised.

Food Minister Jim Paice said:

“This is the delivery of a Government promise to ensure that we do not use taxpayers’ money to undermine our own farmers’ high standards of production. By doing so, we’re practising what we preach and challenging the rest of the public sector to follow.”

The new standards, developed by Defra and the Department of Health, mean that all food bought by Government departments must meet British or equivalent standards of production, wherever this can be achieved without increasing overall costs. For example, in future, all pork and pork products procured by Government should be produced to the same high welfare standards that UK pig producers have to meet.

The standards also include elements on healthy eating and include:

  • purchasing healthier ingredients and foods lower in salt, saturated fat and added sugars;
  • promoting best practice in cooking and serving food to help consumers choose the healthier option; and
  • providing higher level criteria for Departments who wish to go further on portion size, calorie labelling and menu analysis.

Anne Milton, Minister for Public Health, said: “The standards show that Government is leading by example - by making sure there are healthier choices for people and that people have the right information at hand so they can choose healthier food more easily.”

Government Buying Standards for other major products and services have also been thoroughly revised to ensure they represent value for money for the taxpayer while helping to deliver our Greening Government Commitments.


  • For further information please go to:
  • This is the first time that Government Buying Standards have been developed for food and catering services. The GBS standards come in two levels: a minimum mandatory and voluntary best practice level.
  • The Government Buying Standards for food will apply to all central government departments and their executive agencies, including the military and prisons. Exceptions to standards may be granted under exceptional circumstances. The standards will be promoted to the wider public sector.
  • They have been developed by Defra and the Department of Health based on a full economic impact assessment and review by a wide range of stakeholders including catering and food suppliers, other Government Departments, sustainability NGOs and consumer groups.
  • The standards that have been agreed cover: 
    • Sustainably sourced fish
    • Animal welfare
    • Higher environmental standards, such as organic or Integrated Production (e.g. LEAF)
    • Seasonal produce
    • Fairly traded produce
    • Energy efficient catering equipment
    • Waste management
    • Nutrition
  • Government Buying Standards already cover major products and services such as construction, ICT, transport, paper and furniture. They have recently been thoroughly revised and updated to ensure they represent value for money while reducing environmental impacts.
Published 16 June 2011