A WEST Lancs head teacher has withdrawn beef from the school menu due to safety concerns in the wake of the horsemeat scandal.
Burscough Priory head Catherine Edens said she had removed beef products from the menu as a “precautionary measure” after the school’s external caterers were unable to provide assurances of where the meat came from.
It comes in the same week Horse DNA was discovered in beef cottage pies delivered to 47 schools across Lancashire.
The county council said officials had acted to remove the pre-prepared meals from school kitchens after they tested positive for horsemeat traces. But the authority refused to reveal which schools were affected – and whether any were in West Lancs.
Explaining why she chose to remove beef from the menu, Ms Edens said: “Because of the recent scares around horsemeat in beef products the students asked the question ‘how do we know our food was safe’. The food here is fantastic, but we had a meeting with our caterers and they couldn’t give us certain answers about the beef – they told us it came from the Lake District but couldn’t answer if it was the factory or the field.
“We decided, with the students, to eliminate any potential risk at all by withdrawing the products.”
Ms Edens said she believed the scandal would lead to people turning to their local butcher for meat rather than relying on supermarkets, and said Priory would only be sourcing meat in future when they could be sure of its origins.
Many schools in West Lancs already source their beef through butchers. Scotts, in Ormskirk, has a deal with a number of schools to provide beef, including Ormskirk School.
John Doyle, head teacher at Ormskirk School, said: “We have done our own school food for many years now – we don’t buy anything from the county council. We don’t purchase any type of ready meal, we source our meat from Scotts butchers and it’s all from farms in the area.”
Parents will be “rightly shocked” that meals served to their children have been contaminated with horsemeat, according to NFU Lancashire County Chairman, Fred Ollerton.
He said: “Although, reassuringly, the council has stated that there are no food safety issues, this is a clear indication that something has gone wrong in the way it sources meals for the county’s schoolchildren.”
County Councillor Susie Charles, cabinet member for children and schools, said: "We share the concerns people have about what is clearly a major problem in food supplies across the UK and Europe.
"Because of those concerns we decided to seek extra assurance that our external suppliers were not providing any products containing horsemeat DNA, and one of the products has returned a positive result.
"Relatively few schools in Lancashire use this particular product but our priority is to provide absolute assurance that meals contain what the label says – having discovered this one doesn't, we have no hesitation in removing it from menus.
"This does not appear to be a food safety issue but I've no doubt parents will agree we need to take a very firm line with suppliers and it is a credit to our officers that we have been able to quickly identify the problem and take the product off the menus."