LABOUR HAS criticised the reaction of caterers and the hospitality sector to the horse meat scandal.
While the retailers have reacted with “speed” following the discoveries of horse and pork meat in beef products, shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh said she was “disappointed” that the hospitality and catering sector has not been so candid.
In a parliamentary debate this evening, Creagh also asked the environment minister, Owen Paterson, to provide the names of caterers attending meetings with government and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and how much testing of the large public sector caterers had been carried out.
In a statement today, February 11th, she also said: “It is unacceptable that the Government has taken four weeks to issue guidance to schools and hospitals on the horsemeat scandal. It is unrealistic to expect head teachers, hospital and prison chiefs to understand their caterers’ supply-chain when we have seen just how long it is. The Prime Minister should step in, get a grip on this crisis and speed up the public sector’s official food tests. People cannot wait until April to know that all food in schools and hospitals is safe.”
Paterson did not reveal any data, but did assure that the issue was about “fraud and mis-labelling” and not food safety.
The FSA has now published confirmation that public institutions (schools, prisons, hospitals, armed forces) are within the scope of the UK-wide authenticity sampling programme being organised. A statement on the website said:
“Suppliers (such as caterers) of meat products to schools and hospitals are included within that surveillance programme. In addition, suppliers – including caterers – to public institutions are part of the extensive testing regime the Food Standards Agency has established with the food industry, including foodservice businesses.”
Creagh also said she had been given information about British companies who may potentially be involved in the illegal horsemeat trade. She has offered this to the environment secretary.