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A government food initiative that could improve the quality of school and hospital meals has awarded a £100 million contract to the procurement arm of the catering giant Sodexo.

The deal by the Cabinet Office with Entegra, a subsidiary of Sodexo that says it is the largest food group purchasing organisation in the world, has the aim of streamlining public sector food and drink procurement and bringing more small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) into the government’s supply chain but keeping prices keen and raising standards.

The merits of the multi-year contract are contentious, however, and food wholesalers and distributors have labelled it as anti-competitive and claim that it will add cost and could lock out more SMEs than it helps. James Bielby, chief executive of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors, said: “[Entegra] are a middle man where no middle man is needed.”

The Crown Commercial Service (CCS), the central government buying agency, awarded the contract to Entegra in late January, saying that up to £100 million of food and drink ordered by public sector bodies could go through its new buying platform, which will be live later this year. It is a trial and, if successful, could lead to more of the £2.1 billion spent each year on food being organised via the platform. It will be open to buyers from organisations such as hospitals and schools as well as central government departments with large food and drink requirements, such as the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Defence.

The CCS said the deal, known as the buying better food and drink agreement, aimed to “drive up standards” by requiring any suppliers on the platform to meet the government’s minimum levels. At the same time it wants to support food producers, shorten supply chains and help public bodies to meet their carbon net-zero targets.

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Source: The Times

Date: 4 February

Posted in News on Mar 04, 2024

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