Ban on school pies after horse meat found
UNITED KINGDOM:The discovery of horse meat in cottage pies served to Lancashire schoolchildren has prompted the local council to ban the dish from school menus, while dozens of others are to follow the example.
The decision came shortly after the UK Food Standards Agency published tests on a quarter of all of the beef dishes on sale in British stores, which showed that just over 1 per cent of those sampled included more than 1 per cent of horse meat.
The horse meat in Lancashire was discovered in cottage pies served to schoolchildren after Lancashire County Council demanded guarantees from suppliers that their meat was free of horse DNA, which led to tests that returned one positive sample.
Nearly 50 schools were then ordered to remove cottage pie from menus. “Relatively few schools in Lancashire use this particular product but our priority is to provide absolute assurance that meals contain what the label says,” said Lancashire county councillor Susie Charles.
“Having discovered this one doesn’t, we have no hesitation in removing it from menus. I’ve no doubt parents will agree we need to take a very firm line with suppliers.”
On Thursday, Staffordshire County Council, which supplies nearly nine in 10 of the meals served in schools in the county, decided to remove all processed beef dishes, even though it had found no evidence that meals had been contaminated.
Producing the results of tests that have been under way all week by food producers, the Food Standards Agency said the majority of the biggest-selling branded products had been tested and found to be clear of contamination.
“We asked that businesses started by testing products that they considered the highest risk, either because of the type of product or concerns about particular suppliers. That means that the bad news is likely to be frontloaded,” said Food Standards Agency chief executive Catherine Brown.
Available tests struggle to offer accurate sampling below 1 per cent – an issue for those who cannot eat pork products on religious grounds. “[However], the short-term priority is ending the deliberate substitution of beef with horse,” she said.
Prosecutions will follow if the agency and local authorities believe a conviction can be won, said FSA official Stephen Warne. “Proving that a criminal offence has been committed is not always straightforward,” he told journalists.
Several thousand more tests will have to be carried out over coming weeks, the agency said, though it warned not all of the basic ingredients supplied to catering firms throughout Britain have yet to be fully checked.
One of those firms, Compass, which supplies hundreds of thousands of meals daily, said it had found horse meat in burgers served in Ireland and Northern Ireland – including in two unnamed colleges – but none of the burgers had been served in Britain.