Exclusive: Less than half of UK forces’ food is British

AS LITTLE as half of the food served to the nation’s servicemen and women is produced on British farms, the Yorkshire Post can reveal.

Investigations show that the majority of Armed Forces personnel and civilian staff are served food which is just 49 per cent British.

The figure rises for those serving on operations to 62 per cent but these servicemen and women are still provided with only relatively small amounts of British meat, with the remainder being imported.

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Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that currently 65 per cent of personnel in the Army, Navy and RAF, along with civilian support staff, are catered for by outsourced Catering, Retail and Leisure contracts.

The most recent data that the Ministry of Defence could provide for the Yorkshire Post was for 2008/09 – when Labour was still in power – and showed that 49 per cent of the food provided under these contracts was from Britain. The MoD also stated that it had no information regarding where the remainder of the food came from.

For those servicemen and women on operations or not covered by these contracts, the level of British food they are served is 62 per cent, an improvement from 46 per cent in 2006/07.

However, the amount of British food these Armed Forces personnel receive varies, with just 15 per cent of the chicken and a quarter of the lamb served to British forces sourced from British farms.

Only 40 per cent of the beef served to the forces is British. But for pork the picture is much better with 100 per cent of this meat served to forces being British.

All eggs, milk and bread provided to service personnel was British, while 65 per cent of the total fresh fruit and vegetables were sourced from domestic farms.

Both the Liberal Democrats and the Tories trumpeted the importance of promoting British food during their time in Opposition and the coalition Government’s agreement included a commitment to ensure that all food procured by Government departments “meets British standards of production wherever this can be achieved”. But this move has seemingly been delayed, drawing the ire of farming leaders.

The National Farmers’ Union’s head of food chain unit, Lee Woodger, said: “The NFU believes the Government should live up to the commitments that both coalition partners made in opposition and start to ensure that it procures food of the same high standards UK farmers produce to and therefore provide servicemen and other public servants with high-quality food.

“Despite the consultation into Government Buying Standards for food – which proposed setting minimum quality criteria for food procured that recognised UK standards – being concluded for some time it seems the announcement has been delayed.

“It is also the case that any standards would only be applied to central Government departments, not all departments, and therefore not cover schools and hospitals, which consequently means that there would still be no minimum standards set for those that arguably need it most.”

An MoD spokeswoman said: “Wherever possible the MoD aims to source food for MoD personnel in the UK locally. Some products are sourced from outside the UK as local suppliers cannot always meet the MoD’s demand for year-round supply or compete on price. Defence Food Services is working with Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and other bodies to identify further opportunities in which it can work with British producers and assist them to better compete for MoD food contracts.”