PROCESSED beef meals have been dropped from all Lancashire County Council schools after horse meat was found in halal beefburgers.
It is the second time horse DNA has been found in a beef product fed to children in schools supplied by the authority in two weeks.
Last night, as county leader Geoff Driver claimed decisive action had been taken over the ‘frankly appalling’ discovery, the Lancashire Council of Mosques called for him to resign.
They warned Muslim pupils to take packed lunches instead of eating any school dinners.
The discovery affected halal frozen beefburgers supplied to four unnamed secondary schools in the county.
It followed the announcement on February 14 that tests had found horse DNA in a pre-prepared cottage pie supplied to 47 of the authority’s primary schools .
Coun Driver said the discovery of the contamination came because the county was one of the few councils in the country able and willing to properly test its frozen beef products.
All the affected schools have been contacted and informed.
Coun Driver 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 per cent 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.”
Blackburn councillor Salim Mulla, chairman of the Lancashire Council of Mosques and Blackburn with Darwen, said he was extremely angry at the discovery.
He said the authority should never have dropped Blackburn-based halal supplier KQF Foods in October for four new suppliers which did not meet the Council of Mosques procedures for certifying meat in accordance with Islamic Law.
Thousands of Muslim schoolchildren in 68 Lancashire County Council schools, including 45 in Burnley, Pendle, Hyndburn and Rossendale and five schools in Blackburn and Darwen, are supplied with halal products through the county’s central catering unit.
Coun Mulla said: “This is shameful. It is a disgrace.
“I think Coun Driver should resign and heads should roll among the officers in the county council.
“We cannot trust what they say. We warned about this in October when they dropped KQF and asked them to ensure their suppliers followed our code of Halal practice which ensures a clear supply chain from slaughterhouse to plate. They ignored us.
“They have let down not only Muslim schoolchildren but children of all faiths in Lancashire by supplying meals that are contaminated with horsemeat.
“I shall now be recommending all Muslim families to send their children to school with a packed lunch.”
Pendle councillor Eileen Ansar backed him saying: “I am disgusted. We warned the county council about this in October. After they found the horsemeat in cottage pies two weeks ago they should have acted.
“I think Coun Driver should consider resigning. We can’t trust a word the county council says about what is in their school meals.”
Coun Driver said: "I share the anger of Muslim parents. We all have a right to trust that the food we eat is what we believe it to be.
"However this issue goes beyond the supply of halal meat and affects the processed food industry as a whole.
"There is absolutely nothing at all to suggest that had we followed the Lancashire Council of Mosques' demands this could have been avoided.
“We were forced to change halal food suppliers last year precisely because the supplier we previously used, which was insisted upon by the LCM, failed to provide adequate assurances about the source and shelf life of its products."
Hanif Daudhwala, a Halal expert at the LCM, said: “There is some doubt as to whether horsemeat is Halal or not but we have no doubt that any horsemeat in these burgers will not have been prepared in accordance with Islamic law. This would not have happened if the county had kept KQF as its supplier of halal meat.”
KQF of George West Street, Blackburn, had no comment to make.
- An earlier version of this story mentioned the European Halal Development Agency. They have asked us to point out that no food products involved in the current horsemeat controversy involving Lancashire County Council are supplied by them.