HORSEMEAT has been discovered in the menus of six Lancashire schools, but Lancashire County Council refused to confirm or deny whether Burnley schools had been affected by the scandal.
The council has suspended the supply of all frozen processed beef products to schools as a precaution after its own scientific tests carried out in light of the horsemeat scandal cast further doubt on the reliability of food labelling.
But when asked by the Express whether horsemeat had found its way into Burnley schools, a spokesman said the council would not be naming any schools, and would not confirm or deny.
Although the majority of affected products on school menus have tested negative for horse DNA, two have tested positive. The first was a pre-prepared cottage pie used in 10% of primary schools (announced earlier in February) and the second was a Halal beef burger, which had been available at four schools in the county. All affected schools have been contacted and informed.
As a precaution, the council has also suspended a halal lamb burger, manufactured on the same premises as the beefburger, from its menu.
County Coun. Geoff Driver, leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “I hope that parents and children can be reassured by the advice that this isn’t a food safety issue, however it is frankly appalling that we have found horsemeat in two products which were supposedly 100% beef.
“These products came from manufacturers who not only carry all the correct certification but who also recently provided us with written assurances their products did not contain horsemeat.”
The county council is one of the few councils in the country able to conduct its own laboratory tests on the DNA composition of meat products. It has chosen to test for traces of horsemeat in all the frozen processed beef products supplied to its schools, as well as undertaking work on the national investigation led by the Food Standards Agency.
The suspended products were only supplied to secondary schools and around 10% of Lancashire’s primary schools.
County Coun. Driver added: “Few if any local councils across the country have been as proactive as we have in testing their school meals and unfortunately the results show we were right to act on the concerns raised by what has become an international scandal.
“Under the circumstances, with children returning from their half term break, we feel we have no choice but to withdraw all frozen processed beef products as a precaution until the food industry and regulators do something to restore confidence in what people are being fed.”
All frozen products that contain processed beef will be taken off the menu.