The UK's largest caterer, Sodexo - which supplies food to 2300 hospitals, prisons, schools and companies across the country - has announced that it is withdrawing all frozen beef products from sale. This follows the discovery of horsemeat contamination in its beef products as a result of DNA testing.
A Sodexo spokesperson said yesterday "To reassure our customers, Sodexo has decided to withdraw all frozen beef products from its UK catering operations with immediate effect.
"Sodexo has had a pro-active programme in place to ensure that there is no horse meat in its supply chain. We demanded written assurances from across our supply chain that the products we purchase did not contain horse meat, and additionally implemented an internal sampling programme."
The Sodexo statement continued "Despite repeated guarantees from our suppliers, our sampling has identified frozen beef products which tested positive for equine DNA. This situation is totally unacceptable."
The company reassured its customers that, as a result of the contamination that has been discovered, "We will only re-admit into our catering operations products that have affirmatively passed DNA testing, pursuant to laboratory test criteria."
When ThisIsDevon asked the company about the origin of this contaminated meat, the company refused to provide further details and revealed that it had in the past not carried out DNA testing on its beef products.
The spokesperson said "We already have in place rigorous evaluation of the health & food safety of our products. Historically, our QA [Quality Assurance] process has not included DNA testing. Going forward we have implemented a revision to our QA protocol which does include evidence of DNA testing by both our suppliers and ourselves."
Customers in the South West
The company also refused to provide a list of its customers in the South West, stating "We are not providing any further information regarding our clients."
Other sources show that Sodexo provides food services to organisations in the South West including North Devon NHS Trust and RNAS Culdrose.
The action by Sodexo follows a series of withdrawals over the past month, involving beef-based products from Findus, Bird's Eye and supermarkets such as Asda, Lidl, Sainsbury's and Tesco.