Changes To The Standards, 2016
Each of the Food for Life Served Here sector-specific handbooks has been updated. All caterers will need to use the 2017 versions from now on. Here’s a quick guide to the changes:
- All dessert options on the menu will now be counted as one dish each day. The dessert dish will count towards your overall freshly prepared percentage if 75% of all the options are also freshly prepared. Find out more here [see below]
- The exemption which permits locally prepared cook-freeze meals to be served where no viable on-site kitchens are available in hospitals has been extended to schools where the caterer can demonstrate a commitment to promoting fresh-cook kitchens. Fresh vegetables, fruit or salad must always be served, and meals must be prepared from scratch within the local authority area or 20 miles of the school. Find out more here [see below]
Farm assured meat
- The list of farm assurance schemes recognised as equivalent to Red Tractor has been updated. From September 2016, all meat served will need to come from farms accredited to one of the schemes listed. Find out more here.
- The exception which permits non-farm assured black pudding to be served in all settings except schools and early years has been formalised. This is in recognition of the lack of farm assured product available and will be reviewed in 2018.
- The exception which permits non-farm assured charcuterie products to be served if compliant products are not available in cafés, restaurants, workplaces, universities and events catering has been formalised and will be reviewed in 2018.
Other changes for hospitals, care homes and universities
- Nutritional standards for hospitals and care homes have been updated in line with current industry guidelines.
- The universities handbook has been renamed higher and further education.
For school caterers who promote fresh-cook kitchens where possible, but have some schools with no suitable on-site kitchens available, cook-freeze meals will now be permitted to achieve the Food for Life Served Here Award. To qualify, cook-freeze meals must be served with fresh salad, fruit or vegetable accompaniments, and prepared within the local authority area or 20 miles of the point of service. Frozen meals can only be stored for one month.
This recognises the efforts made by some caterers to promote fresh-cook systems and put kitchens back into schools, where possible. There is evidence that cook-freeze meals may be more appetising and retain more nutrients than some meals that are transported hot. This change also helps to keep jobs and investment within the local authority area, encourages the use of local ingredients, and supports a link between the school and the way the food is prepared when the use of on-site kitchens is not possible.
Why has this change taken place?
The independent Food for Life Served Here Standards Committee felt that caterers who have invested in reinstating kitchens deserved recognition. They understood that in rural areas or where schools are very small, there is a case for supporting the use of frozen transported meals made in a local hub kitchen, if the caterer can demonstrate a commitment to the ethos of fresh cook, primarily through investment in putting fresh-cook kitchens back into schools.
Where on-site kitchens are not viable, local hub kitchens represent the best possible solution because they protect local jobs and encourage the use of locally produced ingredients. The Soil Association believes that fresh-cook kitchens on site are the best way to prepare and serve school meals, but we understand that in some cases, the infrastructure required to support this system is not available. We want schools to retain kitchens, where possible, and as such, the Standards Committee felt that caterers who are using a cook-freeze system, but are moving towards fresh-cook, where possible, would be eligible to achieve the Food for Life Served Here Award.
Changes to the way desserts are assessed
From 31 January 2017, the freshly prepared calculation will change. The 75% principle, which requires 75% of dishes on the menu to be freshly prepared, will now be applied to the dessert options within the menu. All of the desserts served on one day will count as one dish; this dish will count as freshly prepared if 75% of the dessert options are freshly prepared. This is the same as the way jacket potatoes and salad bars are currently assessed.
Step 1: There are 6 dishes on the menu
Step 2: Dish 1, 2 and 3 are freshly prepared from scratch. Dish 4 does not classify as freshly prepared because it is bought in. Dish 5 does not classify as freshly prepared because baked beans are not freshly prepared, therefore only 50% of toppings for this dish are freshly prepared.
Dish 6 would classify as freshly prepared because crumble is prepared from scratch. Yoghurt and ice cream have been subjected to primary processing only, so are accepted as freshly prepared; therefore, 100% of dessert options are freshly prepared.
Step 3: 4 of 6 dishes are freshly prepared, which is 67%. This would need to increase in order to meet the standard.
Why has this change taken place?
Fresh food preparation is a fundamental pillar of the Food for Life Served Here Award. Preparing dishes from scratch gives catering staff more control over what goes into them, making it easier to provide a balanced meal. It also ensures that cooking skills are maintained.
It is important to ensure that the experience of diners in Food for Life Served Here accredited outlets meets expectations. This change to the way desserts are assessed will further encourage caterers to make main dishes from scratch by better recognising the effort which goes into preparing a dish.