Company suspends supplier of halal meat containing pork

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Media captionPrison guidelines say inmates should be able to eat according to their religion

The company which supplied halal food found to contain traces of pork DNA to prisons has removed all products from the manufacturer.

Food distributor 3663 initially carried out its own tests on the products after suspecting five of its halal products may have contained horsemeat.

A company spokeswoman told the BBC they were "shocked" to find pork DNA traces.

Under Islamic law, Muslims are required to eat halal food - and eating pork is strictly forbidden.

The company spokeswoman said the five affected products were supplied to prisons and nowhere else.

Justice minister Jeremy Wright said the incident was "absolutely unacceptable" and added the Prison Service was investigating the incident "as a matter of urgency".

3663 said in a statement their sentiments echoed those of the Ministry of Justice and said it was a situation that "we deeply regret."

The company said initial tests were carried out on the products after the manufacturer's name appeared on a report by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) following an investigation which discovered horsemeat in some frozen burgers.

"3663 recognised a potential connection between a supplier of halal savoury pie products for the MoJ and one of their halal beef suppliers mentioned with the FSAI report," the company said.

'Prompt actions'

3663 said horsemeat was not found but "disappointingly, we received evidence that within the products tested there were traces of porcine protein.

"These results shocked us as the manufacturer in question is accredited by the Halal Food Authority.

"This is a wholly unacceptable situation and one that we deeply regret.

"We are however relieved that our own prompt actions following identifying a potential risk from the FSAI report enabled the earliest possible removal of these products from sale."

The Food Standards Agency is now investigating whether the contaminated products were distributed more widely across the UK.

Steve Wearne, from the Food Standards Agency, said it had called an urgent meeting "of a range of suppliers" on Monday where it would "stress again the responsibility of all food businesses to ensure the food that they sell contains what it says on the label".

Islamic law

Halal meat is defined as meat slaughtered by hand and blessed by the person doing the killing, however some Muslims believe mechanised form is also now acceptable.

Editor of the Muslim News, Ahmed Versi, said: "This is very serious because no Muslim would ever eat pork meat - anything to do with pork - and it must be very distressing for those in prison who have been given this meat to realise they may have been eating food which was contaminated with pig."

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