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Food for Life Served Here – Standards Review: Public Consultation

Thank you to everyone who filled out our Food for Life Served Here Standards Public Consultation throughout September – November.

The consultation has now closed and the next steps are to analyse the findings, which will then go through the rigorous standards governance process. The updated standards are likely to be published in late 2024, and will come into action 12 months after the publication date.

Until then if you have any questions regarding the standards or the process please get in touch with standards@soilassociation.org.

Food for Life Served Here – Standards Review: Public Consultation

We are currently consulting on changes to the Soil Association Food for Life Served Here catering award standards. This consultation runs until Monday 13th November 2023 and is open to the public.

As our flagship awards scheme for healthy and sustainable catering, the aim of the consultation is to ensure that the Food for Life Served Here standards remain relevant for those they are intended to support and ensure they continue to be a powerful vehicle for positive change.

We expect the consultation to take around 25 minutes. If you have any further questions or would like to speak to us directly about any of the points raised here please contact us on standards@soilassociation.org 

Please find an outline of proposed changes below or refer to this summary document for more detail on the standards. Further insight and explanation of the changes is provided within the survey

Proposed Standards Changes:

New standards at Bronze Award level:

Meat reduction in menus

A new standard to support and encourage caterers to offer fewer meat-based dishes and more plant-based dishes on menus. By reducing meat and other animal products on menus, caterers can lower the environmental impact of the food that they serve and may also support the health of their customers. We understand that this transition needs to be made in a manageable way and have a series of options within the survey to understand how best this could be implemented.

Food Waste Reduction
Introducing a Food Waste Reduction standard at Bronze Award level. This would replace and expand upon the Silver and Gold Award standard that requires caterers to take steps to reduce plate waste.

Changes to standards at Bronze Award level

Freshly Prepared Dishes (Bronze standard 1.1) - Changes to this standard will aim to make it easier for caterers to navigate and apply the Freshly Prepared Dishes standard to their service, while raising awareness around the concept of Ultra Processed Food (UPF) and continuing to drive a reduction in its use.

Meat and Animal Welfare (Bronze standard 1.2) - Maintaining the welfare expectations of the current standard while allowing caterers greater flexibility in sourcing meat from welfare assurance schemes from outside the UK.

Fish to Avoid (Bronze standard 1.3) - Updates to reflect the changes that the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has made to the Fish to Avoid list.

Undesirable Additives and Artificial Trans Fats (Bronze standard 1.5) - Expanding the list of synthetic food additives that are banned from Food for Life Served Here menus, including a ban on artificial sweeteners.

National School Food Standards Compliance (Bronze standard 1.0) (not applicable in Scotland)

After receiving feedback, we acknowledge that it is not the role of the Food for Life Served Here to check legally required compliance with the National School Food Standards (NSFS) and are therefore looking to change this to requiring caterers to demonstrate that they are monitoring their compliance with NSFS, rather than their compliance with the NSFS themselves.

Supplier Food Safety Compliance (Bronze standard 1.11) - similar to above, we see our role as working with caterers to demonstrate they are monitoring the Food Safety Compliance laws, not to prove to us that they are complying with them.

Proposed removal of following Bronze Award standards:

Drinking Water (Bronze standard 1.7).
Anecdotal evidence tells us that caterers now routinely provide free drinking water in a prominent location in catering settings. Therefore, we are proposing to remove this standard, replacing it instead with a prominent reminder in our guidance that this is now expected as common practice.
Dietary and Cultural Needs (Bronze standard 1.10)
Instead of being a standard, this will need to be demonstrated at pre-joining checks and guidance will be given to ensure that menus are inclusive and culturally diverse.
Scotland only: National School Food Standards Compliance (Bronze standard 1.0)
School caterers in Scotland are legally required to comply with the Nutritional Requirements for Food and Drink in Schools (Scotland) Regulations 2020. Compliance is commonplace and monitored by Health and Nutrition Inspectors at Education Scotland. This, taken with feedback we have received from caterers, leads us to believe that the inclusion of this standard in the Food for Life Served Here award scheme is unnecessary duplication.

Silver and Gold Award proposed changes:

Changes to the weighting of points on palm oil (Silver and Gold standard 2.1.9)

Changing how caterers achieve points for their use of palm oil; this will allow caterers to gain maximum points for using sustainable palm oil, rather than just for using no palm oil at all.

Free Range Pork and Poultry (Silver and Gold standard 2.1.2)

This change is to reflect the significant challenges caterers are currently facing in sourcing free range pork and poultry, and to encourage caterers to continue to take steps towards best practice in the sourcing higher animal welfare pork and poultry.

Marine Conservation Society (MCS) ‘Fish to Eat’ (Silver and Gold standard 2.1.3)

MCS has replaced the ‘Fish to Eat’ list with ‘The Good Fish Guide’, which rates fish from 1 – 5 to help people identify those that are sustainably caught or responsibly farmed. We are proposing changes to the standard to reflect MCS’s new approach and will reward caterers for their use of fish rated 1-3 on the list. This proposal has been made in consultation with MCS.

Why review the standards now?

This is our first full review of the Bronze Award standards, and first step to reassessing the Silver and Gold Award standards since they were initially developed over 10 years ago, and a lot has changed in the world since then. The aim of the consultation is to ensure that the standards remain relevant for those they are intended to support and ensure they continue to be a powerful vehicle for positive change.

Whilst standard setting by its nature means that lines are drawn, we aspire to be as agile as possible, to ensure we can respond to feedback from our valued caterers and partners, as well as to changes in the UK and global food system.

Our aim in this public consultation survey is to hear from stakeholders across the entire range of sectors we work with. The more responses we receive the better the picture will be for us to ensure our standards are helping caterers achieve their health and sustainability goals whilst maintaining the integrity, accessibility, and quality of a robust, independent certification.

Useful information:

  • A summary of the proposed standards changes can be found here 
  • The consultation should take around 25 minutes to complete and is best done on a computer rather than a phone
  • If you have any questions, please head to our FAQ page - link below and if not covered there, then please email standards@soilassociation.org
  • Please note this survey will close on Monday 13th November
  • Responses are welcome from all

Please see our FAQ here for any questions you may have.

If you have any further questions or would like to speak to us directly about any of the points raised here, please contact us at standards@soilassociation.org