By Derek Morten, University of Reading
To celebrate the launch of a new, quicker, easier route to MSC certification for members of TUCO (The University Caterers Organisation) Ltd (a purchasing organisation in the UK) Derek Morten, Catering Systems Manager at the University of Reading, told us what it means to be one of the first universities certified through this group and how the process works.
Fish is brain food so it is vital for universities. Modern students are concerned about the nutritional value and sustainability of their food and we know that our broad range of customers are concerned about the oceans and seafood sustainability. That means that the opportunity to expand in this market is huge. We were really excited about being one of the first universities to join the TUCO MSC Group; it adds to our other recent awards which include the Green Impact Award, Good Egg Award, Platinum EcoCampus, Green Flag and Eat Out Eat Well Awards.
The first step to getting certified was to contact TUCO Ltd who sent us a pack with all the documents we needed. We then planned our purchasing so we had some MSC certified fish to put the MSC ecolabel on once we were certified. It’s worth bearing in mind, only fish bought through the TUCO frameworks are covered by this system, so only TUCO Ltd fish can be shown on menus with an MSC ecolabel.
We were already serving MSC certified pollock, cod and haddock and we have decided to switch to MSC for all our battered white fish as well. We buy a mix of frozen fillets to batter ourselves and some pre-battered products. As both will be MSC certified it makes it much easier to explain to our kitchen teams and customers which fish is MSC and which isn’t. It’s pretty straightforward, so changing a product brand in order to offer an MSC certified fish product is also a simple process. We’ll probably add more MSC certified products as we go along and there’s information about how to do that in the pack.
The next step was about the sites we wanted to include in the certificate. Every site needed a visit to do some training and to complete a quick audit. The materials for both were included in the pack from TUCO.
The only thing our teams needed to do differently was to remember that MSC certified fish always needs to be marked ‘MSC’. For us, that’s easy because we keep frozen fish in its original packaging and, once thawed, it’s kept cling-wrapped and we write ‘MSC’ on the date stickers. It’s important to make sure the MSC certified fish and non-certified fish can’t get mixed up in your kitchen.
Finally, once we’d received our MSC certificate, we needed to show that we had control over our menu printing. That’s where the ecolabel is actually used. This is easy for us because our menus are decided and printed centrally, so we know in advance which dishes will be MSC labelled and it’s simple to use the ecolabel correctly.
All in all, it took me two days to visit all the kitchens and another few hours to get the paperwork together.
The great news for our customers is that Reading University will now be offering MSC certified fish in our three halls of residence and two restaurants, including Eat at the Square – which we’ve just had refurbished. The MSC ecolabel will also be on student menus for the start of the new next term. We’re delighted that we can make a difference and ensure fish supplies for the future by buying and serving MSC labelled seafood. DM