Procurement criteria for organic food

In a nutshell

This tool provides schools and municipalities options for incorporating organic food criteria into the procurement of catering services. It is based on the EU’s Green Public Procurement (GPP) criteria for food and catering services. The implementation supports, amongst others, the EU policies for biodiversity, clean environment, and Farm to Fork policies.

Necessary Steps

  • In the preparation phase for public procurement, market consultations on the supply of organic products are crucial.
  • Publish the call for tenders to find a catering service provider 8–9 months before the beginning of the school year. This ensures that the contract will be awarded early enough to guarantee the sufficient supply of organic food.
  • Organic food provision can be included in the procurement documents as a qualifying criterion (minimum requirement) or award criterion (score-based).
  • The organic food criterion in a technical specification (minimum requirement) can be set either as a percentage of total raw materials or as a percentage of specific food groups, for example:
    • At least X% of the total purchases of food and drink products must comply with the requirements of EU organic label (Regulation (EC) No 2018/8481 or its subsequent amendments).
    • At least X% of the following food and drink products (which will be inserted by the contracting authority) must comply with the requirements of the EU’s organic label (Regulation (EC) No 2018/8481 or its subsequent amendments).
  • The procurement document must specify whether the percentage of organic food is calculated based on the value or weight. Calculating the percentage of organic food purchases in value gives more flexibility to offer organic food from different product groups. For example, it enables the purchase of more affordable seasonal products.
  • The adherence to organic criteria, when they are set in procurement contracts, must later be confirmed by the contracting authority.

More Issues To Consider

  • The proportional award criterion, which uses a score-based system for the use of organic food, is more complicated to verify during the implementation of the contract, due to its unique nature. For example, a proportional award criteria could specify that the highest percentage of organic food products will get a maximum score (determined by the contracting authority), while each subsequent percentage gets a lesser score.
  • If a school has not procured organic food before, consider starting with the minimum criterion and from a smaller share of organic products (e.g. 20%) in purchased raw materials. Do not set the requirement for all food groups.
  • If an organic catering eco-label exists nationally or locally, it simplifies the supervision of organic food offering in meals for the contracting authority. The state supervisory body will then check the catering service’s compliance with the eco-label requirements. The tenderer must confirm that the required level of the national catering eco-label will be obtained by a specific date. For more information, see the tool Developing an organic eco-label for catering.
  • Central support from the local government is needed to help schools incorporate sustainability features into their catering service procurement. The development of a central verification system should also be considered to check the conformity of service with the terms set out in the procurement documents.

Further Information


The information on this page about the use of the tool “Procurement criteria for organic food” is only provided as a general guide and is not intended as a substitute for the user to check the respective public procurement regulations. We compiled the content to the best of our knowledge, but do not assume any liability for completeness and correctness. We do not assume any liability for the user to verify the applicable procurement law provisions in the respective national state.

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