Schools told to ‘quarantine’ burgers

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CANTEEN staff have been told to ‘quarantine’ frozen burgers after a company supplying schools confirmed a full product recall in light of the horsemeat scandal.

The Southern Education and Library Board this afternoon told principals a firm which supplies schools across the district with burgers has withdrawn their supply as a ‘precautionary measure’.

The Board said the contractor, Hendersons Food Service is instigating a full product recall pending further assurances from the producer that there is no contamination of the products supplied.

The SELB has instructed all school meals kitchens to quarantine stock of the relevant items pending collection by the supplier in a letter sent to school principals.

It follows concern this morning (Thursday) that principals had not been told about the removal of burgers from school menus last month due to the horsemeat scandal.

The SELB had confirmed this morning that it withdrew all fresh and frozen burgers from school menus immediately following the news in mid-January that horsemeat had been found in some processed beef products.

However, it appears that no principals were informed by the board. Several heads contacted by the Portadown Times said they only learned of the move on yesterday morning’s news.

The board has since confirmed burgers have been reintroduced in schools where the meat supplier had been checked out and their product confirmed to be beef.

“Principals in the Southern Board have not received any direct information on this matter,” said one head. “After speaking to our cooks I can confirm that burgers were taken off our menu when the horsemeat scandal first broke about three weeks ago. But principals and obviously parents were not notified directly and we were unaware of this. I feel we should have been notified.”

The source also confirmed that fresh burgers were only off the school’s menu for just over a week, but added that some frozen products remained on the banned list.

The spokesman for the board said this morning the burgers were removed last month “pending clarification from suppliers of the status of their products”.

He added, “Burgers have been reinstated on school menus by SELB Catering Service following receipt of confirmation from suppliers that all meat supplied was from a bovine source.”

The education board could not confirm how many suppliers have been checked and how many schools have reintroduced burgers, but he stressed that in schools where they were back on the menu, all the relevant checks had been completed.

The other education board to withdraw burgers is the South Eastern Board which began taking frozen burgers off the menus on Wednesday.

Last month, Irish authorities discovered horsemeat in some burgers stocked by some UK supermarket chains.

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill said 2012 had been an “exceptionally difficult year” for farmers and the horsemeat controversy was “therefore a very unwelcome development”.