Laura Stewart: Schools can prove their food is trustworthy
The recent issues around horsemeat have revealed two major flaws in our food system; too little traceability and too much processed food.
As the scandal rumbles on, attention this week has turned from the supermarket shelves to school dining rooms. It is a timely reminder that food served in Scotland’s schools must be food we can trust.
Cabinet secretary Richard Lochhead is right to define the recent scandal as a watershed moment in terms of how we think about food.
But let’s acknowledge the four local authorities including East Ayrshire (gold), Highland and Stirling (bronze) that hold the Soil Association’s Food for Life Catering Mark, a prestigious UK-wide certification scheme setting standards of traceability, quality and provenance for meals served in the public and private sector.
The standards provide a clear framework to improve food on the plate, supporting caterers to make progress to including more local, seasonal, organic and high animal welfare products. At bronze, the entry level, all meat must be farm assured by UK Assured Food Standards or equivalent schemes such as Quality Meat Scotland, ensuring it is traceable back to the farm. As a minimum, 75 per cent of food served must be freshly prepared, reducing reliance on processed food.
Last night, at an awards ceremony in London celebrating the achievement of Food for Life caterers across the UK, North Ayrshire became the latest local authority to become a pioneer of the scheme. The council has achieved the top tier gold Catering Mark for its new school menus, bringing the total number of certified meals served in Scotland every year to more than 4.7 million.
Thanks to funding from the Scottish Government, we are delighted to be working with many more catering teams as they strive to achieve the Catering Mark. As this work continues behind the scenes, we must make sure local authorities, caterers, suppliers, schools and parents are asking the right questions to ensure the quality and traceability of food is always top priority.
Let’s celebrate the achievement of local authorities such as North Ayrshire as examples of how things can be done.
• Laura Stewart is director of the Soil Association Scotland.
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