The West End EXtra reports
“Westminster Council’s “utter disregard for the gravity” of finding pig DNA in halal sausages served at a primary school has been slammed by a Muslim councillor today.
It was revealed last night (Thursday) that halal school dinners being served at St Mary’s Bryanston Square primary in Marylebone contained pig meat, which is “forbidden” in the Islamic faith.
In a damning letter sent to to council chief executive Mike More today (Friday), Cllr Papaya Qureshi said the information provided by the council “does not begin to scratch the surface”.
Cllr Qureshi said she was insulted by the council’s decision to inform members of the discovery with a “PR message” that left them scouring news websites for additional information.
She said: “I find it unacceptable that you did not inform us earlier that concerns of pork contamination were there, that tests were being conducted and what the outcome of these tests were immediately and in more detail.”
Cllr Qureshi said that lack of information left Muslim councillors “under-equipped” to address the concerns of residents affected by the discovery. She said:
“I can not start to explain to you the feeling of disgust and impact this will have on the many Muslim and Jewish residents of Westminster, like myself. In the few hours of this evening, I have already had concerned friends and family members from the borough contact me. The information you have provided so far does not scratch the surface of the concerns people will have and under-equips Muslim members like myself to honestly address this.”
Muslims are only allowed to eat halal meat which is slaughtered by hand and blessed by the person doing it. Pig meat is forbidden by the Holy Qur’an.
The shocking discovery yesterday (Thursday) has forced the council to strip all meat from its school dinner menus. Chartwell’s, the council’s contractor, has been told to cancel its deal with its halal meat supplier.
Lamb and pork was also found in the lean minced beef supplied to schools.
Yesterday the Town Hall’s director of children’s services Andrew Christie said the council had begun contacting “faith groups” and parents offering to meet with them to discuss their concerns.
He added: “We also understand and regret the upset that may have been caused to parents and children alike. I can assure parents we will keep testing our school meals.”
Mr Christie said pig DNA was found in the halal chicken sausages following independent tests launched by Westminster City Council in three schools. They were carried out on February 25 in the wake of the horsemeat scandal. No horse DNA was found.
However, yesterday (Thursday), scientists confirmed there was pig DNA in the halal chicken sausages in one primary school.
The halal range was supplied to 15 primary schools, two nurseries, one special school and one pupil referral unit. The lean minced beef was used in 18 schools.
Last month, Westminster Council strenuously denied its schools were affected by the horsemeat scandal despite its main supplier’s parent company starting DNA testing on its products.
The council alerted the Food Standards Agency on March 11 “…in accordance with the usual protocols for incidents of this kind”. It has set up a phone line for concerned parents to contact and said all catering contractors would now have to carry out random DNA tests on meat products.
Parents can call 020 7745 6401 between 9am and 5pm.