Horse meat 'reassurances' sought over Cornish school meals
4:20pm Friday 15th February 2013 in Truro
Cornwall Council has sought reassurances from its school meals provider following the horse meat scandal that is engulfing parts of the processed food industry.
The council has a contract with Chartwells to supply meals to 197 schools in Cornwall, however there is no evidence that any food is contaminated with horse meat in school canteens.
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 about the robustness of its procedures for ensuring the traceability and quality of the food being supplied to our schools.
"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."
Chartwells website says that their "sustainable sourcing strategy" includes providing "full traceability of products and suppliers within our approved supply chain to ensure that sustainable, ethical and safety standards are built in to our requirements".
Despite this strategy, the company has become caught up in the scandal after a burger product containing horse was sent to a "small number of sites in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland where we provide catering".
The company says this product was not supplied to any mainland UK sites, adding: "We are deeply concerned by this finding and that, despite the written assurances we and our supplier received, we have had this breach of our supply chain. We are working with the Food Standards Agency and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland to establish the details of what happened and to ensure it doesn't happen again."
It added: "The traceability and quality of our food is our top priority. All of our nominated suppliers have to adhere to strict food quality and safety standards and they regularly undergo independent audits to ensure these standards are upheld.
"In light of recent events, we have also sought, and received, re-confirmation from all of our current nominated UK & Ireland meat suppliers that they comply with our required traceability, testing and hygiene processes.
"In addition, we are undertaking a DNA testing programme across our processed meat products to ensure that the integrity of the products we provide is maintained."
Cornish pasties and other beef products have already been removed from sale at Richard Lander School "as a precautionary measure", until there is "100 per cent certainty" of the traceability of the products.
The horse meat scandal has spread to schools, however with an array of different providers across the UK, the picture remains unclear.
Preliminary results in Lancashire have shown the presence of horse DNA in some school meals.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published the results of tests on all supermarket beef products, revealing that 29 of the 2,501 samples contained horsemeat, calling the results
A further batch of 900 test results are still to be released, with the next expected next Friday.
Among those pulled into the controversy are Whitbread, which found horse in its beef lasagne and burgers, supplied to Premier Inn, Brewers Fayre, Beefeater Grill and Table Table.
The items have all been removed from sale.
A Department of Education spokesperson said that while it was not a food safety concern, "suppliers and caterers should be urgently reassuring schools and parents about the action they are taking".