Beef product off the menu in Leicestershire schools
A beef product has been permanently withdrawn from the county council's school menu after traces of horse meat were found in it.
Tests showed minced beef from Hampshire-based supplier Pinnacle Foods contained traces of horse DNA.
The meat, used in spaghetti bolognaise and lasagne dishes, has been served in schools over the past 12 months. It was removed during the half-term holiday to await test results and will now be replaced by a different type of minced beef.
Council bosses have assured parents there was no health risk and the product contained less than a 1 per cent trace of horse DNA. However, parents have expressed their concern.
Louisa Day, of Ashby, north west Leicestershire, who has two boys at a county primary, said: "I think if people are happy to eat cows, pigs and sheep, then they should be happy to eat horse. The concern is that the content of the food being served isn't known. That's the main issue."
Another parent, from Whitwick, who did not want to be named, said: "The council has made a big deal in the past of its school menu being locally-sourced where possible, but the question is how on Earth can this happen?"
The council, which only uses food produced in the UK, had sought reassurances for two items which had not been processed on site by the supplier.
Results showed no trace of horse DNA in the other product tested – a beef grill steak – which will now be reinstated on menus.
Graham Reed, managing director of Pinnacle Foods, which supplied the minced beef, said: "We're very disappointed and feel let down by our supplier as we've never knowingly bought, handled or processed equine.
"We're seeking their assistance to ascertain the source of the contamination."
The firm said it has since implemented new testing and monitoring procedures.
Wendy Philp, the county council's head of school food, said: "We've moved quickly and taken action and won't be using this product in the future. We want to reassure parents there's no health risk and we're satisfied with the quality of all the beef products we serve."
Ms Philp said the council would be seeking regular assurances from school food suppliers to ensure they are complying with legislation.
The council provides 22,000 meals to children at 24 schools in Leicestershire every day.
Health inspectors who found instances of pork contamination in beef burgers and chopped and shaped beef at a county supermarket and takeaway – as reported last week – have said it was less than 0.1 per cent in both samples. Trading standards are investigating the reasons, to see if any mislabeling amounts to a criminal offence.