Government Buying Standards

The Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering Services (GBSF) are a set of criteria outlined by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to ensure the use of sustainable food products.

GBSF include a set of minimum mandatory standards that NHS trusts must comply with. They also recommend additional best practice standards for food and catering. GBSF were implemented in 2011 but became legally binding for NHS trusts as part of the NHS Standard Contract in April 2015.

The aims of GBSF

GBSF identifies several clear opportunities for NHS trusts to help increase the overall performance, delivery and quality of hospital food. The GBSF criteria covers three key areas of sustainable food procurement:

  • Foods produced to higher sustainability standards
    Food produced to higher environmental standards – for example fish from sustainable sources, seasonal fresh food, animal welfare and ethical trading considerations
  • Foods procured and served to higher nutritional standards
    Food with reduced salt, saturated fat and sugar and increased consumption of: Fibre, fish, fruit and vegetables
  • Procurement of catering operations to higher sustainability standards
    This includes the use of equipment, waste and energy management

Purchasing against one or more of these criteria will help you to meet the requirements of GBS for Food and Catering Services. The mandatory requirements should be adopted by the NHS as standard and supported by procurement practices.

The standards explained

See our Useful Links 🔗 section – the GBSF Balanced Scorecard is a tool that can be used to support the procurement of food and catering services.

It goes beyond production standards, resource efficiency and nutrition, by providing a comprehensive tool for setting technical specifications and evaluating bids. It includes award criteria to reward good practice, and to further stimulate investment and innovation.

See our Useful Links 🔗 section for the full breakdown of the standards, including mandatory and best practice.

NHS Supply Chain and GBSF

We are committed to supporting Government Buying Standards for Food and have been working with our suppliers to provide you with the information you need to buy sustainable food. We also want to raise awareness of GBSF to help improve standards of food across the NHS, and as such have included the standards in our NHS Operating framework (see clause 3.15).

See our Downloads ▼ section for the full framework document.

In the long term we will be building GBSF into our standard tender process; allowing suppliers the opportunity to highlight their products that meet the set criteria.

Our suppliers and products

A number of our suppliers actively support the promotion and adoption of Government Buying Standards for Food and offer a wide range of products that meet the set criteria. To support this, we are looking to develop ‘product flagging’ within our online catalogue to highlight those foods that comply, making it easier for our customers to buy sustainably.

Contact us

For further information please contact your NHS Supply Chain: Food Account Manager.

Downloads ▼

  • The Operating Framework for the NHS

    The Operating Framework for the NHS in England 2011/12.