Ealing Council Asked To Test School Dinners For Horsemeat

Local Lib Dems want to know if there are any traces of equine DNA

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Ealing Council has been asked to carry out DNA tests on beef and processed products used at local schools following the horsemeat scandal.

Liberal Democrat councillors have written to the Council asking it to reveal what steps it has taken to check the safety of food, to reassure local parents and elderly people. A number of local authorities in the UK this week took some processed meat products off school menus.

Hounslow Council have said that its catering service does not serve any menu items from processed beef.

Commenting on school meals, Cllr Steve Curran, cabinet member for education at the council, said: "I'd like to reassure parents that our catering service does not serve any menu items made from processed beef.

"The food we purchase - beef, lamb, chicken and turkey - is British Farm Assured, supplied by a selected local butcher, and is fully traceable.

"This is not the cheapest way of buying meat, but gives us confidence that the meat we serve is as described, and free from any sort of contamination. We are closely monitoring the situation and will take action if required by the government or Food Standards Agency.”

Councillor Gary Malcolm, who lives in Chiswick and is group leader on Ealing Council for the Lib Dems, said: “I hope the council (Ealing) will want to be absolutely sure that the products being supplied to schools and residents are what they claim to be. It is not acceptable for the council to remain silent and just hope this issue goes away.

"This week some local authorities have started to take processed meat products off the menus in schools, children’s centres and meals for the elderly. Some councils have also detected traces of horse meat in products provided by their suppliers according to the councillors."


A survey of 49 councils by the Local Authority Catering Association has found that almost a third of them have asked trading standards to carry out DNA tests on school dinners in the wake of the horsemeat scandal.

Half have asked suppliers to provide the results of their own tests, and one in 10 has contacted independent laboratories themselves. Cllr Malcolm said the horse meat scandal was a "fast-moving situation" with each day bringing new theories and revelations.

The Ealing Liberal Democrats have now written to the Council’s Chief Executive urging the council to reveal:

  • what, if any, steps the council has taken so far to check the safety of beef or processed meat products used by the council’s staff, contractors or suppliers.
  • whether these investigations have found any grounds for concern
  • what, if any, further action is being considered by the authority in response to growing public concern and to reassure residents
  • whether the issue has been raised by Ealing parents, users or schools and what advice is being given by the Council.


Ealing Council said in a statement:

"We have sought assurances from our suppliers that the meals provided to schools comply with food safety and food hygiene standards.

"We provide catering services for 59 primary and special schools under a contract with Harrisons who have Food for Life accreditation and use farm assured UK meat. Eight other high and primary schools use catering companies Chartwells and Caterlink, who say they have found no evidence of contamination and are continuing to test their products. The remainder of schools, and the borough's academies, make their own catering arrangements."

Brentside High, Acton high, Greenford High, Ravenor Primary, Gifford Primary, Downe Manor Primary and Featherstone Primary use a catering contractor called Chartwells. The latest statement from Chartwells is:

"We have received assurances from all our suppliers that there is no contamination in the supply chain. Where they have conducted their own DNA tests the results are all fine. We have commenced our own DNA testing programme but the results will not be known until next week. So we can say there is no evidence of contamination in the supply chain to MITIE schools."

The latest statement from Caterlink:

"Caterlink can confirm we do not use any meat based product from Findus and other suppliers currently associated with the on-going FSA investigation. Caterlink is proud of our farm to fork journey which ensures that we can trace the origin of our freshly prepared meat dishes to the farm where the animals are reared. All of our suppliers are audited by an external body to ensure that they comply with our and statutory obligations."

February 20, 2013