Wednesday, 22 May 2013


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Meat tests ordered at food firms across city
by Alan Thompson
Tests on meat are to be carried out at businesses across the city amid a growing concern over food content.
Butchers, cafes, restaurants, food processors, wholesalers and shops selling meat are to come under the scrutiny of Leicester City Council’s health inspectors.
City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said: “Recent national stories about the horsemeat scandal and the findings of pork in halal lamb burgers in city schools has undoubtedly caused concern to city residents, and many people may now be questioning how confident they can be about the food we eat.
“This can also be damaging to reputable manufacturers and suppliers. We recognise that small retailers cannot undertake the extensive testing that supermarkets can.
“By carrying out this in-depth investigation, we will get a clear picture about the standards of meat on sale locally and help restore consumer confidence.”
It is the biggest meat-sampling programme ever undertaken in the city, with the aim of getting a better picture of the quality and standard of meat and meat products on sale in Leicester.
The investigation will include over 100 samples and is likely to take about three months to complete. A report on the investigation will be made public upon completion.
Adrian Russell, city council director of environment and enforcement services, said: “We will be looking to target those products most at risk from adulteration. These will mainly be products that are less likely to have been subject to testing undertaken nationally or by major supermarkets.
“This is the biggest food-sampling programme we have ever undertaken, and we are very keen to ensure that any companies that are knowingly supplying fraudulently labelled foods will be brought to justice.”
A spokesman for one city wholesaler and processor of beef, pork, lamb and poultry said: “We supply to retail chains nationally, national food service companies and ready meal manufacturers.
“We test anyway, we have done since the horsemeat affair, to make sure our customers have confidence that they’re getting what they think they’re getting.
“A lot of places deal with multi species and it is impossible that tiny traces of the DNA of one meat can never totally be removed from another in a multi-species environment no matter how much you clean.”
“What the council is planning is a good idea, but it depends how vigorous they’re going to be. There are manufacturers and retailers out there who don’t have the same vigorous standards.”
Alan Walker, owner of Clays Butchers in Cheapside, in the city centre, said: “I think it’s good, it’s exactly what they should have done years ago.We are a fresh meat butchers selling beef, lamb, chicken, pork etc, there is no cooking or ready meal processes carried out here, everything we serve is fresh.
“I think people need reassurance. Independent shops like ours have seen an increase in footfall since the horsemeat scandal.”
Shaf Islam, owner of Chutney Ivy restaurant, in Halford Street said:”We have been buying our meat fresh from local butchers whose trade has rocketed. I find their quality to be a lot more assured than going to one of the bigger chains.
“ I feel it is what is needed to assure the public and hopefully something like this will put more confidence into consumers.”
Deepak Shah, owner of the Lucky Supermarket in Hinckley Road, Leicester, said:”We don’t sell any fresh meat, we just buy packaged meat form a trusted wholesaler.
“Things should be checked before they get to the customer, but we don’t have the resources as a small business so I think this is a good idea.”
The action comes as Leicester City Council begins its own statutory investigation into halal burgers removed from city schools earlier this year.
City Barrister Kamal Adatia said: “Leicester City Council is now undertaking its own investigation into this matter. We cannot make any further comment as this may prejudice any future legal proceedings.”

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