Launching the results at the Ploughing Championships today (Wed) of a nationwide survey undertaken of public organisations, institutions and agencies into their procurement policy of food, IFA President John Bryan was very critical of a number of respondents for their lack of commitment to local food producers.
He said, “Taxpayers’ money is underpinning the work of those we surveyed and IFA feels very strongly that our food industry should be supported in return. The Defence Forces, in particular, has a very poor record in buying Irish. One-third of its beef is sourced outside the Republic and none of its bacon is sourced here”.
The IFA President was also critical of the health services. “Some of the biggest offenders are hospitals, whose record on buying Irish is at odds with official HSE policy. The HSE, which spends €32m a year on food, responded to our survey and said the standard sought from suppliers ‘should reach at a minimum An Bord Bia Quality Assurance Programme or equivalent quality assurance scheme’. Yet individual hospitals cite availability and price as the reasons for sourcing from abroad. Clearly, there is a disconnect between what the HSE says it does and what hospitals decide when sourcing food”.
John Bryan said there was a trend in some of the replies to the survey to pass responsibility over to outside catering companies, which is unacceptable. He said, “All organisations have to take responsibility for the food that is ordered. UCD, the largest 3rd-level college in the country, is guilty of Pontius Pilate-like behaviour in placing the onus on their contractors.”
IFA issued a questionnaire to 165 different bodies – from hospitals to Government Departments to 3rd-level colleges – in July to ascertain their commitment to local producers when purchasing food products.
The questionnaire asking what is the country of origin of the food products used by the various organisations. It listed beef, lamb, ham, pork, bacon, chicken, eggs, milk, potatoes, vegetables and fruit. The survey asked if catering was done in-house or outsourced. It also asked if steps had been taken since the DNA episode to ensure the traceability and labelling of all meat products are accurate.
On chicken and pork products, John Bryan said 61% of respondents said they bought some outside of the Republic, with only 39% committing fully to local producers. 91% of respondents said they had taken steps since the DNA episode to ensure the traceability and labelling of all meat products are accurate, and they had not changed their supplier.