Tyrone company supplied halal food containing pork DNA
McColgan Quality Foods has been named as the company supplying halal food with traces of pork DNA. Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images
A Tyrone-based company has been named as the supplier of halal food containing traces of pork DNA for use in British prisons.
The British Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has suspended 3663 — a supplier of meat to prisons — after discovering that food products may contain traces of non-Halal meat, despite being sourced from McColgan Quality Foods Limited, which is a properly Halal-certified supplier.
3663 have said they are “shocked” and described as “wholly unacceptable” that some of the Halal products they supplied were found to contain pork DNA due to McColgan Quality Foods being accredited by the Halal Food Authority.
On an Invest Northern Ireland-backed website, McColgan Quality Foods — based in Strabane, Co Tyrone — is said to be “approved for the preparation of Halal product”.
The website lists McColgan customers to be popular supermarket brands including Lidl, Nisa, Spar and Costcutter.
It states McColgan specialises in “a wide range of chilled & frozen, sweet & savoury convenience foods for retail and foodservice”.
3663 — the numbers in the name corresponding to the letters “FOOD” on a telephone number pad — is currently contracted to distribute a wide range of products including ambient, frozen, fresh and chilled foods to the MoJ, all sourced from fully accredited and approved manufacturers and producers.
Following the horse meat scandal, 3663 recognised a potential connection between a Halal beef producer mentioned within the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) report and a supplier of Halal savoury beef pastry products stocked for the MoJ.
3663 informed the MoJ of the potential connection as a precautionary measure, then took the decision that these Halal savoury beef pastry products should be quarantined to prevent their use pending DNA testing.
3663 initiated DNA testing on multiple production batches of the Halal savoury beef pastry products from McColgan and “disappointingly” received evidence that within the products tested there were traces of porcine protein.
The company have removed all Halal products from McColgan from the supply chain and said they will not source any further Halal products from them.
In the statement, 3663 said: “Our sentiments echo those of the Ministry of Justice in that this is a wholly unacceptable situation and one that we deeply regret.
“We are, however, relieved that our own prompt actions following identifying a potential risk from the FSAI report enabled the earliest possible removal of these products from sale.”
A spokesman for McColgan’s said in a statement: “McColgan’s can confirm that it is proactively co-operating with the Food Standards Agency and its local representatives following the discovery of trace elements of porcine DNA in a limited number of halal-certified pastry products which are supplied to 3663 as part of its contract to The Prison Service.
“McColgan’s has already taken swift measures to identify, isolate and withdraw all of the products which are supplied to The Prison Service while an investigation to determine the circumstances surrounding this deeply regrettable and unforeseen incident takes place.
“McColgan’s is keen to stress that at no point has pork of any kind been included in the recipes of any of the halal-certified products it supplies.”
Following the discovery, a spokesman for the MoJ said all prisons were informed and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) immediately informed before steps were taken to suspend the relevant supplier.
Justice minister Jeremy Wright said at the time: “This is an absolutely unacceptable situation, and one which we regret greatly.
“Clearly this must be distressing for those affected and they can be reassured we are doing everything we can to resolve the situation. The Prison Service is investigating this as a matter of urgency.”
Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “This is not a matter of dietary preference but of Islamic law. There are clear hospital and prison rules that halal meat must be on the menu.
“This lapse will have offended and distressed high numbers of Muslim prisoners and their families, so apologising, suspending the supplier and investigating the incident are the right steps for the Ministry of Justice to take.”
The revelation follows the recent scandal over horsemeat contamination in burgers produced by the Silvercrest plant in Co Monaghan, part of the ABP Food Group.
The plant lost contracts with Burger King, Tesco, Aldi and the Co-operative Group over the controversy last week.
Chairman of the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee Andrew Doyle said today that Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney and officials from the Food Safety Authority would decide on Tuesday whether to ask the ABP Group to appear before it to answer questions about the controversy.
“I expect the committee probably will agree to invite in representatives from ABP,” Mr Doyle told RTÉ News today.