Scotland is rethinking how it will source school meals following revelations of horse-meat contamination in a beef burger found at a school.
It follows the discovery of traces of horse DNA in a frozen burger removed for testing last week from a school kitchen in North Lanarkshire. The discovery resulted in official advice to local authorities and the like to stop using current stocks of frozen beef products pending further inquiries.
Samples of other frozen mince removed from storage in North Lanarkshire school kitchens have since tested negative for horse DNA.
However, stocks of beef burger products have been removed from North Lanarkshire school kitchens as a precaution.
North Lanarkshire Council said its investigations were focusing on the use of frozen burger supplies during the past three months, the maximum length of time these would be held in storage.
Scottish Ministers announced on Sunday that work would be undertaken to ensure that as much locally sourced food as possible was served within Scotland’s schools.
On Friday, the procurement agency, Scotland Excel, advised Scottish local authorities and its other public sector customers not to use any current stocks they hold of frozen beef products, including frozen beef mince, or order any new stocks, until the outcome of further, detailed investigations were established.
It followed Thursday’s advice to local councils to place a hold on the use of all frozen beef burger products, following the discovery of the presence of horse DNA in a frozen beef burger in North Lanarkshire.
The advice did not apply to the supply and use of fresh butcher meat.
A Scotland Excel spokesperson said: “We have consulted widely with regulatory agencies, environmental health officers and our customers and we have taken the decision today to recommend to all of our customers that they should take a precautionary approach and suspend further use of all frozen beef products, including frozen mince, until further detailed investigations are completed.
“It is important to emphasise that this is a purely precautionary measure and, at this time, no other samples of frozen beef products have returned a positive result for horse DNA.”
Ministers in Scotland said they were keen to meet with local authorities to discuss how standards can be raised even higher in school meals.
Cabinet Secretary for Education Michael Russell said: “Our schools meals have already been vastly improved, but the horse-meat scandal has thrown a spotlight on the sourcing of school food.
“Local Authorities are rightly concerned that the good work going on to improve food in schools is being missed while we deal with the consequences of the current issue.
“We want to work with local authorities to be sure that best practice in procurement is routine in councils and that the procurement reforms we introduced are working well.”
Meanwhile, in Italy, health officials have seized 6 tonnes of ground meat labelled as beef and 2400 packages of a lasagne product as part of ongoing inquiries into horse-meat contamination of beef products.
It was seized from a company in the country’s north.
The health ministry said authorities were continuing to conduct checks throughout Italy.
Meanwnile, Germany’s consumer affairs ministry said it had found horse meat in 67 of the 830 food products tested so far.
Germany Development Minister Dirk Niebel has proposed feeding the affected products to the poor. “We can’t just throw food away in Germany.”
The opposition objected, saying it would insult to the poor.
In Britain, the British Retail Consortium welcomed the latest results of testing on processed beef products, with more than 99 per cent proving to be clear of horse-meat contamination above 1 per cent.
Testing to date has covered 92 per cent of available products.
Consortium director-general Helen Dickinson said: “I’m encouraged by these updated results which confirm how few products have been involved and that any that were, have already been removed.
“We continue to take this very seriously.
“While we may be nearing the end of the Food Standards Agency testing phase, ever since the incident first occurred, we’ve gone further by increasing our surveillance and monitoring procedures. This will continue as we look to review current practices. We’ll be working closely with Government, the regulator and our suppliers to learn the lessons and implement all and every necessary change required.”