By Hamed Chapman and Ahmed J Versi
Muslim parents in Leicester are being urged not to let their children eat halal school meals following new revelations that found pork content in a sample lamb burger supplied by Doncaster-based Paragon Quality Foods Limited.
The latest scandal, in the wake of pork contaminated halal products supplied to Muslim inmates, in a Church of England school in Westminster, London, and the wider discover of horse meat in general beef products, raises questions about the extent of adulteration in the food chain.
Leicester City Council’s Director of Young People’s Services, Trevor Pringle, said that as a precautionary measure all burgers in stock from Paragon had been removed whilst further investigation is carried out.
“We will not be purchasing any further products from this supplier. We have made it clear to our suppliers that this is totally unacceptable, and we are taking urgent legal advice about the next steps,” Pringle said
The contaminated sample was one of a batch of frozen burgers manufactured in January this year. All other halal products used in the Council’s production kitchens are supplied by another company.
Assistant City Mayor, Cllr Vi Dempster, said he was “appalled” by this situation. “It is disgraceful that none of us can have confidence in the food we eat. We regret any distress this will cause families and staff, and would like to reassure them that robust action is being taken to address this serious matter.”
The Council spokesperson told The Muslim News it has contacted the headteachers of 24 city schools supplied with halal products to advise them of the action being taken. It also wrote to 6,000 parents, who have children at the schools concerned.
Suleman Nagdi of the Federation of Muslim Organisations (FMO), which has been working with the Council as part of its investigations, told The Muslim News the community will be “extremely shocked and distressed to learn” of the contamination that has taken place.
“The FMO is working closely with the local authority and calling on them to take legal action in respect of this contamination and would urge the local authority to instigate criminal proceedings against the company involved under the Food Safety Act. The FMO feel that such a prosecution would be in the public interest and would send a clear message to all businesses in this sector that contamination will not be tolerated.”
The national Food Standards Agency and Doncaster Metropolitan Council are also investigating how, and where, pork got into the product, and further independent tests have been taken of the remaining stock.
Managing Director of Paragon, Metin Pekin, confirmed that his company was working with Doncaster Council and were awaiting the results of further testing conducted by the relevant authorities.
“Paragon Quality Foods Ltd is a pork free site and has never knowingly bought or handled pork. We have carried out a full traceability of the product in question and have provided this information to the relevant enforcement authorities,” Pekin said.
Director of Regeneration and Environment at Doncaster Council, Peter Dale, said that Paragon had been given a clean bill of health. “We have formally sampled several halal products made by Paragon in the last three months and all have been free from pork,” Dale said.