Buy British!

Buy British!
09/02/2017 - 11:56
In the light of the UK referendum vote to leave the EU, British Food Fortnight founder and organiser Alexia Robinson wants to Government to make a firm commitment for British food to be the supplier of choice for all public service bodies.

The 15th British Food Fortnight, which took place from 17 Sep-2 Oct last year, recorded another great year of celebrations with schools, shops, pubs, restaurants, hospitals and communities across the country flying the flag for our great British produce.

We applaud the commitment of the organisers and consumers who never fail to spread the message far and wide. Yet there is much more work to be done and particularly within the public sector.

British food is at a watershed. The opportunities under Brexit are huge – not least, the Government and farming marketing boards will at long last be able to promote British food to the British consumer, something they have not been allowed to do under the EU.

But there are also big risks. Brexit opens up the potential threat to UK food production posed by cheap, lower-welfare imports. If EU tariffs are reduced significantly in new trade deals, this could open the doors to large volumes of lower-standard, imported food.

The possibility of a post-Brexit cheap food agenda is real and must not be allowed to take priority over the need to build Britain’s self-sufficiency in food.

The livestock sector is particularly at risk. Our lamb and beef sectors could become bargaining tools in trade talks; and our pig sector could be put out of business by cheap imports.

Such a scenario risks putting British farmers out of business or forcing them to abandon the highest quality standards they have worked for generations to achieve.

The health of the nation would be diminished, our food self-sufficiency put at risk and our countryside would suffer. There is a lot at stake.

It is essential to the future of British food that the Government negotiates equivalent standards of production and animal welfare into any new trade agreements.

And, in addition to this, we call upon the Government to boost the domestic market for our produce by commiting the public sector – schools, hospitals and the Ministry of Defence – to make British food the first supplier of choice.

Our work with schools and hospitals during British Food Fortnight proves the possibilities and benefits of doing so.

By way of example, The Morecambe Bay Trust served food to 778,938 inpatients last year and delivered 50-60 meals Monday to Friday to discharged patients in the community.

They’ve made a commitment to support British food producers and local suppliers with specially created menus, cooking demonstrations, theme days and having local banners and displays in the restaurants and main entrances to showcase its support.

I like the attitude of former national chair of the Hospital Caterers Association (HCA) Andy Jones, a passionate campaigner for buying local produce, when he says: “As a caterer of over 35 years my mantra is the same as it was when I first started – use good ingredients, seasonal produce and use the garden we call Britain.

“With austerity affecting us all and now the impact of Brexit there’s never been a better time to look at how and what we buy.

“I urge all caterers in all sectors but even more so in NHS healthcare and social care to have menus that match the seasons. This will not only save money by using products that are cheaper in season, but it also allows caterers to better meet the nutritional needs of patients.”

So say all of us.

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