Mary Creagh MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary, has today written to Owen Paterson to ask what steps have been taken to ensure that food procured by the public sector is free from horse meat.
Mary Creagh MP said:
“The public must have absolute confidence in the food being served to school children, hospital patients, our armed forces and public servants.
“I have asked the Environment Secretary to publish in full the list of companies that have withdrawn products and what tests are being done. It is unrealistic to expect head teachers, hospital and prison chiefs to understand their caterers’ supply-chain when we have seen just how complex it is.”
The full text of the letter is below:
I am writing to ask what steps you have taken as Secretary of State for food, to ensure that food procured by the public sector is free from horse meat. The public must have absolute confidence in the food being served to school children, hospital patients, our armed forces and public servants.
What advice have you offered to Cabinet colleagues since the Irish Government informed you on 15 January that horsemeat had been found in tests on beef burgers? Did you issue any formal advice to Cabinet colleagues? If so, may I see a copy? What guidelines has your department issued to other government departments and on what dates?
Has any central Government department conducted its own DNA tests for horsemeat? If so, what are the details of those regimes?
The supermarket testing process, though too slow to start, stands in sharp contrast to the lack of transparency around tests being done by large catering suppliers which, from the outside, seem piecemeal at best.
For example, the horse adulterated burger and lasagne products served by the Whitbread Group are nowhere to be found on the FSA website despite being widely reported in the media since Friday 15th February. Burger King withdrew burgers which then tested positive for horsemeat yet these results have not appeared on the FSA website. Similarly, Brakes has now removed four meat products from the House of Commons canteen for testing. It appears that catering companies are withdrawing products across the country.
The results from tests done by caterers who supply the public sector is being collated and coordinated centrally by your department and the FSA. Positive test results for supermarket products are appearing on the FSA website in real time. Why are catering products which have tested positive for horsemeat not appeared in real time on the FSA website so that caterers in schools and hospital are fully aware of what is happening? Do the public not need and deserve total transparency from caterers about where they have concerns? What are you doing to ensure they have the full facts?
Where public sector caterers have been asked to withdraw products supplied by a company, what assurances have you sought and received from companies that those withdrawn products are being tested by those food companies? What assurances have you had from the large catering companies that those tests will be conducted thoroughly and speedily?
The public must have confidence that the food they buy is properly labelled, legal and safe to eat whether it is purchased from a supermarket or served to them in a hospital bed.
I look forward to your early reply.
Mary Creagh MP
Shadow Environment Secretary