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Schools in Devon and Cornwall assured on meat quality

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 16, 2013

Comments (30)

Councils across the Westcountry say they have been given quality assurances over meat in school meals.

The assurances followed yesterday's announcements that horsemeat had been found in schools, hospitals and one of the country's largest pub and hotel chains as the scandal over food fraud continued.

Despite the assurances, one Westcountry school took Cornish pasties off the menu "as a precautionary measure" as fears over contaminated food showed little sign of easing.

The disclosure came as a total of 29 of the 2,501 items tested by the food industry, which reported to the Food Standards Agency, tested positive for horsemeat, covering seven different products. Retailers, who have been criticised by Downing Street for adopting a low profile during the crisis, hailed the fact 99% of tests came back negative.

Meanwhile, pub and hotel group Whitbread – which owns Premier Inn, Beefeater Grill and Brewers Fayre – admitted horse DNA had been found in its food, and took meat lasagnes and beefburgers off its menus.

And it was confirmed that cottage pie testing positive for horsemeat was delivered to school kitchens in Lancashire, while officials revealed burgers containing horsemeat had been supplied to hospitals in Northern Ireland.

In Cornwall, Richard Lander School in Truro said pasties, beef pasta sauces and beef used in baguettes had all been withdrawn. The school said almost all of the food it offered was provided by Eden Foodservices and used British Red Tractor produce, which is fully traceable with guaranteed welfare standards. But the school was also buying in other food which did not fall under Red Tractor.

Steve Mulcahy, headteacher at the secondary school, said in a memo to parents: "These products will be temporarily withdrawn purely as a precautionary measure until they can confirm with 100% certainty the traceability of these products."

School catering contractors are invariably decided by individual schools. Education authorities across Devon and Cornwall moved to reassure parents of pupils at schools it controls that meals supplied by third parties were not contaminated.

Cornwall Council has a contract with private firm Chartwells to supply meals to 197 schools.

A council spokesman said: "The authority takes the health and wellbeing of children in Cornwall extremely seriously and immediately contacted the company to seek reassurances.

"The company has confirmed that all its nominated suppliers have to meet strict food quality and safety standards and they regularly undergo independent audits to ensure these standards are upheld."

Torbay Council said Eden Foodservices also supplied the majority of its primary schools. A council spokesman said it had been "assured" by the company it was "confident that no contamination has occurred in any of its beef products", adding: "This is a result of robust due diligence processes it has in place with its suppliers."

A spokesman for Devon County Council said: "Schools make their own catering arrangements, but those which have chosen to use Devon Norse, the council's catering supplier, have been given assurances that its meat products have full traceability and are sourced locally.

"Norse's beef burgers are either home-made using locally sourced Westcountry beef or made especially for them using the same high-quality ingredients."

The council added its trading standards team is carrying out its own investigations into meat products supplied in Devon.

A Plymouth City Council spokesman said it provided catering for the majority of the city's schools, community meals and residential homes.

She said: "Our meat supplier for our school meals and residential home catering provides us with locally sourced produce from two companies within the South West where the meat is farmed on their premises. These companies have issued written assurances to our supplier that they provide 100 per cent beef."

She added that tests conducted have so far shown meat not to be contaminated.

In the Commons on Thursday, Devon MP Neil Parish called for a debate on food labelling for processed meals.

He said: "The horse scandal has shown that the labels on processed food throw mystery on where that food comes from, rather than provide enlightenment.

"We have an opportunity to get something positive from this scandal, by making sure that people recognise where their food comes from."

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  • josdave  |  February 18 2013, 7:33AM

    It is not a health risk so I don't understand what all the fuss is about. It is fraud in some cases but that is all. There has been no mention, so I assume it did not happen, of all these meat products taken off the shelves being given to charities to feed the homeless and other needy people. This shouls have happened and if all those products ended up in landfill that is verging on criminal waste.

  • jabbathebutt  |  February 17 2013, 10:50PM

    All sorts of chemicals in our food and water (hormones from pills etc flushed into the system that cannot be eradicated) for donkeys years (pun intended)... and you worry only about horse meat ? I had to laugh yesterday in the rag when it said "encouragement " was needed to get people to buy stuff from local suppliers . If people have not learned by now over the years then they never will. And thats apart from the fact that the average mum wouldnt know how to cook anything unless its heated from a tin or even do a nice boiled egg . We have got lazy in all manner of ways ...and this lazyness is coming back and biting us on the ar"2se. Though given that even a small chicken that has come to the end of its caged life and looks pathetic in its plastic wrapping and costing 6 quid and tasteless is hardly a cause for a big rush to start the rush for cooking good meals .

  • Waltersmith  |  February 17 2013, 9:35PM

    @JRussel At least you know it won't be horse!

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  • m_dalston  |  February 17 2013, 8:25PM

    JRussel - it is not mandatory to label meat as Halal, so we don't really have a clue whether it is or not if it doesn't say so on the packet. In fact, most chicken slaughtered in this country is Halal (i.e. head cut off, no stunning, no anaesthetic, in the presence of a certified Imam like clerec). It is easier for the processing factories as they can sell it both as Halal or simply not print anything on the packet.

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  • OutsideView  |  February 17 2013, 8:05PM

    Fish dishes could be at risk as they may contain horse mackerel!

  • Charlespk  |  February 17 2013, 8:28AM

    JRussell Saturday, February 16 2013, 5:57PM says; "Now will they give us assurances that our children are not being forced fed Halal meat without our knowledge or permission?" The question should be 'HOW', not 'NOW'. Clearly DNA testing will unable to distinguish method of slaughter. "What's sauce for the goose" comes to mind. http://tinyurl.com/c2y8y2y (open in a new window)

  • Canuread  |  February 16 2013, 10:45PM

    It's a terrible business. Not just affecting Schools and hospitals. It also affects the general public. I'll give you an example: I went into Tesco's and bought a steak pasty. They refused to honour their 'Buy one steak pasty and get a free saddle' offer' Disgusting..

  • BettyD  |  February 16 2013, 6:49PM

    Having worked in a school and seen what they dish up to primary school children I wouldn't feed it to dogs let alone children

  • roverdale  |  February 16 2013, 6:31PM

    A spokesman for Devon County Council said: "Schools make their own catering arrangements, but those which have chosen to use Devon Norse, the council's catering supplier, have been given assurances that its meat products have full traceability and are sourced locally. I wonder who that spokesman is. Was he given that assurance from another spokesman?

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  • JRussell  |  February 16 2013, 5:58PM

    Now will they give us assurances that our children are not being force fed Halal meat without our knowledge and permission?

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