Pork 'halal meat' scare: Meat pulled from schools' menus

Children at lunchtime at St Mary's Bryanston Square Children at St Mary's Bryanston Square school had vegetarian food on Thursday and fish on Friday, the council said

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All meat is now off school menus in the central London borough where evidence of pork DNA was found in halal chicken sausages.

Sausages at St Mary's Bryanston Square, a Church of England primary school in Marylebone, were found to be cross-contaminated when tested for horsemeat.

Meat from Chartwells - which supplies all but one of Westminster's 41 schools - has been pulled.

The sausages came from Brook Farm Sausages which blamed "human error".

'Human operator error'

Under Islamic law, Muslims are strictly forbidden to eat pork.

Halal sausages are served in 15 primary schools, two nurseries, one special school and one pupil referral unit, which take only halal meat.

Dietary laws: Halal

Halal chicken
  • Halal means "lawful" or "permitted" and indicates foods that conform to Islamic dietary laws
  • On the other hand, haram indicates foods and drinks that are not permitted by the laws
  • Haram foods include animals not deliberately slaughtered for consumption, pork and its by-products, blood and alcoholic beverages
  • The Islamic ritual slaughter is called dhabihah, or zibah, and has a clear set of procedures that must be followed

Source: BBC Religion and Ethics

More than 4,400 pupils choose sausages as a meal option, the council said.

Chartwells is contracted to supply all but one of the council area's schools. Christ Church Bentinck Church of England primary school only serves fish and vegetarian food.

Ameena Pirbhai, a governor at St Mary's Bryanston Square school and the Muslim parent of a pupil said: "About half the school is Muslim and it took years to get the halal option in the school.

"It's something that governors in particular campaigned for. So it is even more disappointing from that perspective to build up this faith in the governing body to provide that service and then to have that trust eroded by this."

The sausage product from Brook Farm Sausages, in north London, passed through catering firm Nigel Fredericks in north-west London, which in turn supplied it to Chartwells.

Klaus Koentopp, managing director of Brook Farm Sausages said: "We can only think that this has happened as a result of human operator error with one batch of these sausages."

The children's services department of Westminster City Council is shared with Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea.

Tests in those boroughs found meat in school meals did not contain either horsemeat or pork cross-contamination with halal food, said a spokeswoman.

'Lamentably slow'

Tests on a sample from Burdett Coutts School revealed the presence of lamb and pork DNA in lean minced beef.

The Muslim Council of Britain called for "appropriate enforcement action".

Deputy Secretary General Dr Shuja Shafi said the Food Standards Agency (FSA) had been "lamentably slow" on acting on non-halal meat being passed off as halal meat since cases emerged at the start of the year.

A spokesman for Westminster City Council said meat would be off the menu until Chartwells could be assured of its supplies meeting standards.

Chartwells said no other council had suspended its services.

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