20% of schools do know where their food comes from, thanks to the Soil Association’s Food for Life Catering Mark

13 February 2013

The horsemeat scandal has exposed two major flaws in our food system: too little traceability and too much processed food. Too few of us now know where our food comes from, and when it comes to food in our schools and hospitals, we cannot even check the label.

This is why the Soil Association has taken up the challenge of transforming catering across the UK. The Soil Association’s Food for Life Catering Mark is the UK’s only independent accreditation scheme setting standards of traceability, quality and provenance for public sector meals and inspecting caterers to ensure that standards are met. The scheme accredits over 650,000 meals a day, including food in 20% of schools in England and the UK’s largest chain of nurseries, and the Catering Mark logo can also be found guaranteeing standards in workplaces, universities, visitor attractions and restaurants.

At bronze (the entry level) all meat served fulfils the requirements for UK Assured Food Standards (AFS) or equivalent higher schemes. This ensures all the meat is traceable back to the farm, and meets UK legal minimum welfare standards. In addition, 75% of food served must be freshly prepared, reducing reliance on processed food. The scheme provides a clear framework of standards to improve food on the plate, rewarding caterers for making healthy eating easier and including local, seasonal, organic and high animal welfare products.

No scheme of food assurance can ever be 100% fool-proof, or immune to corruption by deliberate criminal activity. However, every Catering Mark-accredited caterer must have menus independently verified, submit to an annual inspection and prove that the meat they serve is traceable.

The Soil Association’s Food for Life Catering Mark shortens supply chains and removes reliance on untraceable processed foods in more than 120 million meals served each year. It has seen many schools and hospitals put local food on the menu for the first time. In many cases our standards can be met within existing budgets or have even reduced costs.

In Scotland, the scheme has backing from the Scottish Government, and a dedicated Food for Life team is supporting caterers in Scotland’s public and private sectors, including local authorities, schools, universities, hospitals and leisure outlets, to meet the standards. In Wales, half of universities are part of the Food for Life Catering Mark.

And through our Food for Life Partnership work in over 4400 schools in England, we are helping pupils, parents and teachers understand more about where their food comes from, and ask the right questions of their caterers, driving the culture change we need to stop scandals like this one happening again.

Soil Association Policy Director, Peter Melchett said:
“All meat on Food for Life Catering Mark menus must be farm assured, meaning it is traceable back to the farm. In addition, 75% of food served must be freshly prepared, reducing reliance on processed food. No scheme of food assurance can ever be 100% fool-proof, or immune to corruption by deliberate criminal activity. However, every Catering Mark-accredited caterer must have menus independently verified, submit to an annual inspection and prove that the food they serve is traceable.”

Soil Association Head of Policy, Joanna Lewis said:
“Too few of us now know where our food comes from, and when it comes to food in our schools and hospitals, we cannot even check the label. The Soil Association has taken up the challenge of transforming catering across the UK. Our Food for Life Catering Mark is the UK’s only independent accreditation scheme setting standards of traceability, quality and provenance for public sector meals and inspecting caterers to ensure that standards are met. The Food for Life Catering Mark accredits over 650,000 meals a day, including food in 20% of schools in England and the UK’s largest chain of nurseries.”






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