Hanif Dudhwala of Lancashire Council of Mosques said he had “no confidence” in Lancashire County Council.
The Lancashire Council of Mosques (LCM), had urged Muslims in the area to “boycott all school meals provided by Lancashire County Council” as authorities found horse DNA in halal beef burgers that were supplied to four Lancashire schools in February. Demanding the schools to be named and calling the Council “unco-operative”, the LCM has decided to take their concerns “to the top” by writing to Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Lancashire Council said that it had “suspended the supply of all frozen processed beef products to schools” after its own tests carried out “cast further doubt on the reliability of food labelling.”
The Council confirmed that cottage pies and halal beef burgers “were tested positive” for horse DNA and had been distributed to four schools in the county. These schools still remain unnamed, but the Council said that “all affected schools have been contacted and informed.”
Hanif Dudhwala, of the LCM, said that they were “absolutely shocked and disgusted” by the revelations.
Cllr Salim Mulla explained their stance to The Muslim News: “The safest option at the moment is a complete boycott of school meals, unless Lancashire Council withdraws the entire meat menu in the Muslim predominant schools, then we would be happy for our children to have vegetarian options.”
This news exacerbates the continued deadlock between the two parties, the LCM and the Lancashire Council, on the “criteria” for halal meals over the past few months.
In October last year, the Council had suddenly axed its contract with the original suppliers, KQF, after a “failed”’ inspection. KQF suppliers were replaced with a total of four new companies, but they did not meet the LCM’s “criteria” of halal.
The LCM were very concerned as the Council provided thousands of Muslim school children in 68 Lancashire schools with its meals. At the time the LCM announced that the “latest suppliers of ‘halal’ products are not accredited by any certifying organisation that is in line with the halal criteria adopted by the LCM in 2007 and which was subsequently presented to the Lancashire Council.”
The Council, however, continued to use the new suppliers, and the County Leader, Geoff Driver, disagreed with LCM saying that it was “unacceptable” to use meat from animals which had not been stunned. “This is non-negotiable,” he added.
In a statement to The Muslim News, the Lancashire Council explained that there are various different accrediting bodies for manufacturers of halal food and they have their own specific criteria for how halal food is produced. “One significant area of difference is over whether the animal is stunned before it is slaughtered. The County Council recently adopted a policy whereby it only uses halal meat from animals that have been stunned before slaughter, which renders the animal unconscious and immune to pain.”