Mary Creagh MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary, has written to Owen Paterson today calling for urgent action to be taken over the horse meat scandal.
In her letter she raises concerns about what steps DEFRA is taking to provide advice to customers of Freeza Meats such as catering companies who supply pubs, and public sector schools and hospitals.
The Irish Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney and the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness, have now both called in the police to investigate and Mary Creagh is demanding to know what action DEFRA are taking on this worrying issue.
The full text of the letter can be found below:
6 February 2013
Horse meat and contaminated food entering the food chain
As I am sure you are aware, on Monday 4 February, the Food Standards Agency confirmed that meat, labelled as beef, found on the premises of Freeza Meats in Northern Ireland had tested positive for horse meat. Of the 12 samples tested, two contained at least 80% horse meat.
I am writing to ask what steps you are taking to ensure the integrity and safety of meat products produced by UK Freeza Meats being sold in the UK either through supermarkets or restaurants and canteens. In an article on the foodmanufacture.co.uk website published April 2011 (http://www.foodmanufacture.co.uk/Manufacturing/Burger-factory-set-for-big-freeze), the company’s Managing Director says it supplies Punch taverns, Caterforce, Sodexo, Budgens, Fairways, Londis and Glendale frozen foods.
The composition and safety of meat at the Freeza Meats plant has clearly been compromised by this incident. While some of these companies may no longer be supplied by Freeza Meats, this news will clearly be of concern to customers of these catering companies who supply pubs, and public sector schools and hospitals. What testing does the Food Standards Agency plan to undertake on Freeza Meats products? What advice have they given to customers of Freeza Meats? Has the Government advised Freeza Meats and their customers to withdraw processed beef products from sale? If not, why not?
It is vital that you take steps to reassure the public that products which have been supplied by this company are being withdrawn from sale and tested for contamination, as has happened with the supermarkets.
The FSA needs to conduct tests on food supplied to public sector caterers to ensure that contaminated meat has not been served in hospitals and schools. What advice have you given to public sector caterers such as LACORS on this development? What guarantees can you give that no adulterated meat has gone into school or hospital food, or been supplied to other caterers in the public sector?
This is no longer a food safety issue. There are allegations from the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals that organised crime is involved in the horse meat fraud. This could lead to a loss of consumer confidence and put jobs in the meat processing sector at risk.
The Irish Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney and the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness have now both called in the police to investigate the serious nature of the fraud associated with adulterated horse meat entering the food chain.
What plans do you have to do the same?
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 in a school canteen.
Mary Creagh MP
Shadow Environment Secretary