Campaigners attack government for buying endangered fish in public sector

Campaigners have attacked the government for spending taxpayers’ money on endangered fish after it was revealed that four out of five fish served in public sector institutions will not have to meet any sustainability standards.

The figures were revealed after the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs published new proposals to introduce mandatory sustainability standards for only 20% of seafood bought by the public sector. Campaigners are outraged that the new fish standards will not apply to all of the public sector. All hospitals and schools, for example, will be excluded from the plans completely.

Under the new proposals, only one out of every five fish purchased in public institutions will have to meet sustainability standards which ensure that fish is not from endangered stocks and has been caught in a way that does not harm the marine ecosystem. All other fish purchased by public institutions will not be required to meet any sustainability standards at all and can be purchased from any unidentified source.

The figures were published on the day that the Public Bodies Sustainable Food Bill, which would introduce mandatory health and sustainability standards for all food served in the public sector, is due to receive its second reading in Parliament. The Bill was introduced by Joan Walley MP for Stoke-On-Trent North and aims to improve the quality, health and sustainability of all food served by public institutions.

Joan Walley MP said, “It is simply unacceptable that public money is being spent on endangered seafood for consumption in public institutions. As a matter of urgency, I am calling on government to support my Bill which would address this problem by introducing clear, legal standards for all food served in the public sector. This is the only way that government can ensure public sector food is healthy to eat, is good for the environment, supports animal welfare and protects endangered fish”.

Alex Jackson, Co-ordinator of the Good Food for Our Money Campaign, said, “Thanks to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall there is growing awareness about the danger posed to our most loved fish species. It is shocking that the government will continue to allow the purchase of endangered fish for meals served in hospitals, schools and care homes across the country. Instead of contributing to the problem the government must take the lead in showing solutions, particularly because this food is being bought with taxpayers’ money”.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is proposing to introduce mandatory standards for food purchased by ‘central government’. These ‘Government Buying Standards’ will apply to food purchased by government departments, prisons and the armed forces. The standards include a specification that 60% of seafood has to be ‘sustainable’.

This means Government Buying Standards will only affect one-third of the public sector and will not extend to hospitals and schools. Four out of five fish bought by the public sector will therefore not have to meet any sustainability standards because only 60% of one-third of all public sector food will be affected by Government Buying Standards.

The Public Bodies (Sustainable Food) Bill proposes to introduce food standards in a ‘Code for Sustainable Food’, which would be applicable to public bodies. The Bill would enable public bodies to adopt the Code immediately, and would also give local communities the authority to force their local public institutions to adopt the Code. The Bill is scheduled to receive its second reading on 21 January 2011. To read the Bill please go to

The Good Food for Our Money Campaign is a coalition of 57 health, environmental and animal welfare organisations campaigning for mandatory health and sustainability standards for public sector food. The campaign is run by Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming, a registered charity. See the campaign website at:

Source: Good Food for Our Money Campaign part of: Sustainaweb

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