THE BUTCHER who supplied catering firm Chartwells with halel-labelled chicken sausages contaminated with pork has “taken full responsibility” for the supply chain breach.
Westminster City Council (WCC) found traces of pork DNA in the sausages as part of its own proactive testing regime – and not part of the Food Standards Agency’s country-wide tests. Other tests the council carried out revealed that mean minced beef “showed evidence” of lamb and pork DNA, but these were not supplied through Chartwells.
A statement on the council’s website last week confirmed that council officers took seven samples in total from three schools in the week beginning 25th February “on our own initiative and not carried out as the result of any specific concerns about school food standards”.
All tests proved negative for horse DNA. However, a preliminary report was received on Friday March 8th which suggested pig DNA could be present in the halal chicken sausages range. The result was found in one sample taken at a Westminster primary school. A further round of tests March 14th confirmed the preliminary findings.
The halal sausages were a menu choice in 15 primary schools; two nurseries; one special school and one pupil referral unit. These schools take halal only meat. The lean minced beef was used in 18 schools.
The council said it was “very concerned” by the findings and asked its contractor, Chartwells, to no longer use its halal meat supplier.
In a statement on its website, Chartwells, the education arm of the Compass Group, said the product was supplied by butchers Nigel Fredericks who had taken responsibility for the issue.
"Nigel Fredericks has taken full responsibility for this breach of our supply chain and we are conducting our own investigation into how this happened. We immediately took the precautionary step of withdrawing the product from all sites and have issued unreserved apologies.
"We are deeply concerned by the finding and that, despite the written assurances we received, we have had this breach of our supply chain,” said a spokesman.
The MD at Nigel Fredericks has suggested that the contamination arose from “an isolated incident involving some element of human error”.
DEFRA met last week with organisations involved in halal and kosher food to discuss labelling. The EU is also looking at whether meat should be labeled with method of slaughter – for example stun versus no-stun – and whether it should be labelled as religious slaughter – for example, halal and shechita. This is an issue that has been ongoing for some years now, with little sign of a resolution, however.
WCC said it would continue testing products, but it is not part of the FSA’s testing regime which involves 28 local authorities.
Horse meat has also been found in beef products served in schools.