France moves to make public procurement of food more sustainable

France has set up a National Council for Collective Catering (CNRC) to ensure that at least half the food bought by the public sector in France will by 2022 be “organic, sustainable or under official signs of quality”.

The NRC will also look at the nutritional quality of meals and decide whether mandatory nutritional labels should be introduced.

The 50% target was announced last year as part of measures to boost the country’s farming sector and improve diets. Rob Percival, senior policy and campaigns officer for the Soil Association’s Food for Life scheme suggested Michael Gove, the environment secretary, should “sit up and take note” of the new French policy.

He said Gove must move now to implement a procurement policy that requires Defra’s Balanced Scorecard approach across the whole public sector including education and health. Public procurement decisions must also place a weighting of at least 60% on quality relative to cost, he added.

The UK public sector spends £2.4 billion each year procuring food and catering services. However, the government’s scorecard, published in 2014, is only applicable to central government. The government has yet to report on the initiative’s effectiveness, but many departments have ignored previous schemes.

Last month, the French National Assembly also voted to adopt a bill to “improve the nutritional quality of food and encourage good eating practices”.

So-called “nutriscore” labels – which are a bit like traffic light labels in the UK – will become mandatory. However, firms can side-step the rules if they make a contribution to the National Health Agency, reported FoodNavigator.

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