The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has included a commitment to meeting British or equivalent standards of production in all future food purchased by government departments within its draft Structural Reform Plan, which provides an outline of what DEFRA will look like in the future.
But calling for 'British standards' is not quite the same thing as stipulating that only British produce should be purchased, as this would contravene EU competition laws, according to several industry commentators.
"DEFRA was very careful not to say that food must absolutely be Red Tractor standard [an Assured Food Standards' mark on products denoting British quality, guaranteeing standards in food safety and hygiene, animal welfare and environmental protection]," said National Farmers' Union head of government and parliamentary affairs Julie Robinson.
"Although many of our laws on animal welfare and food safety standards come from the EU, we believe, and some MPs will say, our standards are some of the highest in the world," But she accepted: "Reading between the lines of what's been said, this is a mandate for more British food."
A DEFRA spokesman argued that calling for food procured by the public sector to meet British or equivalent food standards of production is "not the same as saying we are promoting buying British over other EU produce". However, DEFRA was unable to list any non-UK equivalent standards when asked.
"Under EU law, they can't come out and say 'we're only allowing British food' thus they are focusing on standards," said the Food and Drink Federation's communications director Julian Hunt. He added: "It is hard to battle the logic of buying British given the large number of rural constituencies that are supporting the coalition."
In her forward to the draft plan, environment secretary Caroline Spelman said: "The environment is a crucial component of economic growth, and we work to ensure its is managed sustainably. We support green growth by driving the development of new green products and services, creating new market and business opportunities, stimulating the creation of jobs, and promoting the efficient use of resources by businesses and consumers."