1 in 10 schools in Scotland do know where their food comes from, thanks to the Food for Life Catering Mark

13 February 2013

Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead MSP has stated this week that he could not yet guarantee that horsemeat had not been used in food served to school pupils and hospital patients.

But for 1 in 10 schools in Scotland, the Food for Life Catering Mark offers peace of mind in the form of 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. 
 
At bronze (the entry level) all meat served fulfils the requirements for UK Assured Food Standards (AFS) or equivalent schemes such as Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).  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.  
 
There are already more than 3.5 million Food for Life meals served in Scotland each year, including school meals served by East Ayrshire Council, Highland Council and Stirling Council and at least another four local authorities are aiming to gain the Catering Mark for their school and community meals this year. In addition, an innovative partnership project is also underway with NHS Lothian, University of Edinburgh and The City of Edinburgh Council, which will see the Catering Mark achieved in key sites across the capital, embedding a culture of real food change. 
 
With backing from the Scottish Government, a dedicated Food for Life team is now in place to help and support caterers in Scotland’s public and private sectors to increase the number of the Food for Life Catering Mark meals served in schools, hospitals university and leisure outlets. 
 
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.
 
Through the work of Food for Life Scotland, we aim to help 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 Scotland Director, Laura Stewart said:
“It is clear that the horsemeat scandal has exposed two major flaws in our food system: too little traceability and too much processed food. 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. Our work in Scotland has already meant that 1 in 10 schools can be confident about where their food comes from. With recent investment from the Scottish Government, we are delighted to be able to support a growing demand from many more local authorities and institutions to be able to share that same confidence.”
 
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.”
 






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