Horsemeat crisis: Beef off menu for Staffordshire pupils
BEEF has been taken off the menu at schools across Staffordshire in the wake of the escalating horse meat crisis.
The 'precautionary measure' was taken as thousands of pupils were due to tuck into helpings of cottage pie this week as part of their primary school menu options.
Other dishes containing processed beef, such as chilli and lasagne, have also been temporarily suspended.
But Staffordshire County Council – which supplies meals to around 350 schools – stressed there was no suggestion any of these products had been contaminated with horse meat.
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All the council's direct meat suppliers have confirmed their beef is unaffected.
Officials decided to drop beef from school dinners this week so they could reassure parents that children's meals were safe and correctly labelled.
Councillor Mark Winnington, cabinet member for environment and assets, said: "We have every confidence in our suppliers.
"However, while this story continues to be in the news, it seemed sensible to offer an alternative meal, where beef is not 'farm assured' and sourced in the UK.
"We are committed to promoting and using local produce as much as possible and are currently expanding a pilot scheme in schools where only meat from Staffordshire is used.
"While there is absolutely no suggestion that there is any problem with any of the beef supplied, we wanted to take a belt and braces approach."
Pupils were due to break up for their half-term holidays today. The council hopes to have reassessed the situation by the time they return.
Meanwhile, Stoke-on-Trent City Council is continuing to operate a normal school meals service. Apart from halal burgers, no minced beef products feature on the current menu.
City councillor Janine Bridges, who oversees community safety issues, said: "We have been working very closely with meat manufacturers and suppliers in Stoke-on-Trent to ensure that their beef and beef products are just that – beef.
"City Catering, which provides school meals to around 16,000 pupils daily, is included in this."
Cheshire East Council was unavailable for comment last night, although it has sent letters to schools to confirm all its local suppliers are selling bonafide beef.
The crisis gripping the food industry has already led to products being removed from several supermarkets after they were found to contain horse meat.
In a separate development yesterday, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) revealed eight horses slaughtered in the UK for food have tested positive for a veterinary painkiller.
The drug, known as bute, was discovered after 206 horse carcasses were tested.
Two of the affected horses were killed at High Peak Meat Exports, in Nantwich, although they did not leave the abattoir and have since been destroyed.
The FSA said the other six horses which had traces of bute were killed at a slaughterhouse in Taunton, Somerset. By the time the discovery was made, the horse meat had already been exported to France.