Highland Council’s reassurance over provenance of school meals (22/02/13)

Staff, parents and pupils in the Highlands are being reassured about the quality and safe consumption of the fresh meat and processed food used in school meals in the Highlands.

Council Catering and Cleaning Manager Norma Murray has written to the head teachers of the Council’s 177 primary schools, 29 secondary schools and three special schools in response to the national debate and general concerns surrounding the presence of horsemeat in some UK food products.

She wrote: “I’m sure I don’t have to mention all the controversy of the food standards issues in the media related to horse meat. Rightly consumers are worried and apprehensive about the provenance of foodstuffs, with  parents and teachers consequently concerned about  school meals. We have had many enquiries to the service we have responded to each individually. However, I feel that it is imperative to reassure you, your pupils, staff and families of the quality and safe consumption of school meals in Highland.

“All our fresh beef, lamb and pork is sourced, slaughtered and prepared in the Highlands. The Council is contracted with John Munro the Butcher (Dingwall) with individual specifications and traceability included in the conditions of contract.

“In-house monitoring and supplier audits by external organisations ensure compliance, and our local Environmental Health Officers carry out food standards inspections in all our locations. We have that reassurance of where our produce originates,  is prepared , packaged and delivered. This includes our fresh burgers, sausages and haggis included in our menus.

“All schools in the Highlands source their butcher meat from the same supplier. Munro also provides British chicken and venison from two of the Highlands leading game dealers in Bonar Bridge and Newtonmore.

“All meals are cooked freshly with fresh ingredients, and the Council is proud to source as much produce locally as possible and has been awarded the Soil Associations Food for Life Bronze Award.”

She also gave an assurance over the chilled/ frozen and processed foods purchased by the Council and used in school meals.

She added: “Chicken burgers are made from fresh British chicken locally by our butcher; processed beef products currently on our contract listing have been tested for equine DNA (horsemeat) and have been proven negative by all suppliers. Other non-meat processed foods, such as fish fingers and salmon nibbles, are both compliant with FFL and Marine Stewardship Council-certified from sustainable fishing practices.

Councillor Alasdair Christie, Chair of the Council’s Adult and Children’s Services Committee, welcomed the letter of assurance to head teachers and the prospect of the message being forwarded to parents.

He said: “As a parent of a child in a primary school, I understand the concern of parents and I am very pleased that our local sourcing of fresh meat products  and the tests on processed products give reassurance about the quality of the food we are serving to our pupils in Highland schools.”

Visit /learninghere/schools/schoolmeals/sourcingproduce.htm  to learn more about the Highland school meal service or to find out more about food for life http://www.soilassociation.org/foodforlifescotland

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