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Government's fish standards will be worse than for pet food eaten by Number 10's Larry the Cat

06/03/2011

Government fish buying standards have been described as “an embarrassing failure” by leading fish conservation groups. In a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, they state that "Fish served to The Cabinet and staff at Number 10 will almost certainly have worse sustainability standards than the pet food served up to Number 10's Larry the Cat, given that - unlike Government - leading pet food brands such as Whiskas have committed to avoiding endangered species and achieving full seafood sustainability" [1].

Despite a commitment to becoming "the greenest government ever" the Coalition Government has stated that its "preferred option" for fish buying is that only 60% of seafood bought for Central Government should have to meet sustainability standards [2]. The proposed standards would apply to fish served in Whitehall, prisons, the armed forces and government departments.

The letter to the Prime Minister is co-signed by the Marine Conservation Society, the Environmental Justice Foundation, The Shellfish Association, Sustain (an alliance of food and farming organisations) and Good Food for Our Money, the campaign for health and environmental standards for public sector food bought with taxpayers' money [3]. In their letter, the organisations state:

"We remind the Government that if you do not adopt 100% sustainable seafood standards for Government Buying Standards, then your standards will:

  • Fail to show leadership on an issue of acute sustainability concern.
  • Fall far short of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic food standards, which specify nothing less than 100% sustainable seafood [4].
  • Be worse than seafood buying policies of leading household-name brands and influential food businesses such as Marks & Spencer, Sodexo and McDonald’s.
  • Mean that fish served to The Cabinet and staff at Number 10 will almost certainly have worse sustainability standards than the pet food served up to the PM's Larry the Cat, given that - unlike Government - leading pet food brands such as Whiskas have committed to achieving full seafood sustainability."

The Good Food for Our Money campaign is demanding that Ministers introduce a mandatory sustainability standard for all seafood bought by the public sector which is at least as strong as the standard of Larry’s pet food. Members of the public can show their support by sending an automated email directly to Government by going to: http://www.sustainweb.org/goodfoodforourmoney/take_action/.

Alex Jackson, Co-ordinator of the Good Food for Our Money Campaign, said:

“It is shameful that Government is introducing seafood standards for some parts of the public sector which are weaker than those standards in Larry’s pet food. The Government must make it compulsory for all seafood which is bought by the taxpayer and served in public sector institutions to be proven to be sustainable.” [5]


Notes to editor

[1] A copy of the letter is available on request in advance of the embargo and will also be published on the Good Food for Our Money Campaign website (www.sustainweb.org/goodfoodforourmoney) after the embargo has passed. To request a copy in advance of the embargo please contact Alex Jackson at alex@sustainweb.org or on 020 7065 0902.

[2] The coalition government committed in its manifesto to introducing Government Buying Standards for food bought and served in central government, which covers about one third of public sector food, and includes Government departments, agencies, the armed forces, prisons and state-funded museums. The draft standards were issued for consultation IN December. Contact details for Defra and its press office are at: http://ww2.defra.gov.uk/corporate/contacts/

The Government Buying Standards proposals, covering only one third of public sector catering, propose that only 60% of this seafood should have sustainability standards. These standards will therefore cover only one fifth (around 19 per cent) of seafood bought in the whole UK public sector. Standards will not apply to food served in hospitals, schools, local authorities and other publicly funded institutions, making up the two-thirds majority of public sector spending on food.

[3] Marine Conservation Society (http://www.mcsuk.org/); Environmental Justice Foundation (http://www.ejfoundation.org/), Shellfish Association of GB (http://www.shellfish.org.uk/), Sustain (http://www.sustainablefishcity.net/ and www.sustainweb.org), and the Good Food for Our Money Campaign (http://www.sustainweb.org/goodfoodforourmoney/)

[4] In December 2009, LOCOG - the organisers of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games issued its Food Vision, containing mandatory and aspirational standards for food served at the Games. Among the mandatory standards was a firm commitment to serve “100% demonstrably sustainable seafood”. See: http://www.sustainweb.org/olympicfood

[5] The Good Food for Our Money Campaign is a coalition of 60 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: www.sustainweb.org/goodfoodforourmoney.


 

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Fish Fight

I have been travelling around the UK meeting fishermen, marine conservationists, politicians, supermarkets bosses, and of course fish-eating members of the public. It has changed the way I think about fish.

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