Scandal shakes faith in meat

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People worried about what they are eating in the wake of the horse meat scandal are putting their faith in the traditional butcher’s shop.

A rise in sales comes as assurances were given that food dished up in Falkirk Council’s schools and NHS Forth Valley’s hospitals is rigorously checked and of the highest quality.

The local authority’s food inspectors are also heavily involved in the checks being carried out across the country of all approved meat processing premises and cold stores.

However, a major supplier has admitted that the industry has been “tainted” by the revelations of horse DNA in prepared food.

Since mid-January when checks in Ireland revealed traces of horse meat had been found in frozen burgers stocked by UK supermarkets there have been almost daily reports of prepared food, particularly burgers and lasagne, not being all it seems.

Now the public appears to be choosing to turn their back on ready meals and instead cook from fresh. That’s good news for butchers across the country who are reporting an increase in sales of meat from people seeking the reassurance of quality guidelines.

Jim Patrick of award-winning butchers Patricks of Camelon said: “We’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of people coming into the shop in the last couple of weeks.

“Some of them are asking us where we source our meat and we’re happy to tell them. We are members of the Q Guild which gives people the confidence that we are quality butchers.

“However, I don’t think there is a butcher in the area that you couldn’t trust. All the local ones want to serve their customers and make a living.”

Christopher Campbell, managing director of Campbells Prime Meat Ltd of Whitecross, which mainly provides to the food industry, particularly restaurants and hotels, said sales were up five per cent on last year.

He said: “I think the events of recent days have raised two issues: it should be up to the individual if they want to eat horse rather than beef, but more importantly, food has been mislabelled.

“Unfortunately, everyone in the meat industry has been tainted as the general public has to some extent lost faith and it will take some time for that trust to return.”

As food and safety regulation manager with Falkirk Council, John Sleith heads a team of 10 with responsibility for the regular inspection of food premises, sampling of foodstuffs and inspection of workplaces.

He said: “Inspections are carried out on a priority basis at varying times with those we know to need most checks visited every six months and those who cause the least concern every five years.

“As part of our food standards role we check the labelling, including the best before dates, as well as the composition. If sausages are labelled as beef links, then it must only be beef that is used.”

Food samples are sent for checks at the Public Analyst labs – there are four in Scotland – and if necessary, what it uncovers can be used in court.

Mr Sleith, who has over 30 years experience, said: “Our priority is to work with businesses to ensure they get it right.”

Meals for Falkirk Council’s schools are mainly provided by its own internal catering services with five secondary schools receiving theirs from an outside company.

A council spokesman said: “We have sought assurances from these caterers that the ingredients they use to provide our meals to our schools have full traceability and integrity and we have also received statements to that effect from their suppliers.

We are continuing to monitor any new developments and stress that we will continue to maintain high standards in all aspects of our catering.”

A spokeswoman for NHS Forth Valley said: “The vast majority of patient meals provided in our hospitals are freshly prepared by experienced chefs using quality ingredients. No processed ready meals are served and patient meals are made from fresh produce sourced, wherever possible, from local suppliers.

“Our catering service provider has confirmed that none of their main meat suppliers use products sourced from any of the companies or premises currently under investigation by the FSA.”