Horsemeat: Council pulls frozen beef from schools

Frozen beef was pulled after horse DNA was found in a frozen burger. Picture: AP
Frozen beef was pulled after horse DNA was found in a frozen burger. Picture: AP
Have your say

COUNCIL bosses have been forced to pull stocks of frozen beef from schools and care homes after horse DNA was discovered in a frozen burger from a leading supplier.

Beef burgers had been withdrawn from the menu in city schools and council-run canteens upon the instruction of procurement firm Scotland Excel, however this request has since been increased to include all beef products.

The order came after a frozen burger from the firm, which supplies food items to all Scottish councils, tested positive for horse DNA at Cumbernauld High in North Lanarkshire.

Speaking ahead of the full beef recall, a city council spokesman said: “As a precaution we have withdrawn beef burgers from school and council canteen menus until further information is available. Scientists at the council’s Edinburgh Scientific Services laboratory are continuing their sampling programme of meat products supplied to the council and our inquiries so far have shown no cause for concern.”

Councils have also been advised not to order any new stocks until the outcome of detailed investigations.

A Midlothian Council spokesman said: “We are in close contact with other local authorities and there is no evidence of contaminated meat in Midlothian schools.

“We are only responding to an instruction which has gone out to all 32 local authorities across Scotland.”

News of the discovery of horse DNA within the school food supply chain has led Scottish Greens to demand action from ministers.

Alison Johnstone, Green MSP for Lothian and food spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, said: “The Environment Secretary is failing to reassure the public, in particular parents whose children eat school meals. Ministers seem to be putting faith in a new food standards agency for Scotland, but that won’t happen overnight so they must act sooner to localise our convoluted supply chains.”

Meanwhile, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has also released the latest tranche of test results which showed that out of 1133 meat products checked, six were positive for horse at a level greater than one per cent, all of which products have been withdrawn.

The FSA believes that such levels of horse DNA indicate either gross negligence or deliberate substitution of one meat for another.

Products tested included Aldi’s special frozen beef lasagne and special frozen spaghetti bolognese, Co-op frozen quarter-pounder burgers, Findus beef lasagne, Rangeland’s catering burger products, and Tesco Value frozen burgers and Value spaghetti bolognese.

The FSA has now carried out a total of 3634 tests. It said more than 99 per cent had come back negative.

Public Health Minister Michael Matheson said: “Tests and inspections continue to be carried out across the private and public sector in Scotland.

“The first positive result in Scotland’s public sector was recorded last night in North Lanarkshire. Appropriate steps have been taken to withdraw the mislabelled product.

“We welcome the further precautionary step that Scotland Excel has taken, which is to withdraw all frozen beef products until further testing.”

Further FSA test results are due next Friday.

Scotland Excel said “as a precautionary measure” it had advised Scottish local authorities and 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 is established”.