The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) is holding an urgent meeting of retailers and suppliers today (Monday) following the discovery or pork DNA in halal meat supplied to prisons in England and Wales.
The FSA said a number of meat pies and pasties supplied to prisons were labelled and served as halal but contained traces of pork DNA.
Food distributor 3663 named Northern Ireland-based McColgan Quality Foods as the supplier of a “very small number of halal savoury beef pastry products” that contained pork yesterday.
“Wholly unacceptable situation”
It said that the products have been withdrawn, it will not source any further halal products from the manufacturer and stressed that the products were only distributed to custodial establishments.
“Our sentiments echo those of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), in that this is a wholly unacceptable situation and one that we deeply regret, we are however relieved that our own prompt actions following identifying a potential risk from the FSAI report enabled the earliest possible removal of these products from sale.”
Under Islamic law, Muslims are forbidden to eat pork.
McColgan’s said “at no point” has pork “of any kind” been included in recipes of any of the halal-certified products it supplies and added it was a “deeply regrettable” and “unforeseen incident”.
3663 said it initiated DNA testing on multiple production batches of the halal savoury beef pastry products from the manufacturer.
“Disappointingly, we received evidence that within the products tested there were traces of porcine protein. These results shocked us as the manufacturer in question is accredited by the Halal Food Authority.”
An FSA statement said that the situation was "unacceptable" as people had a right to expect that the food they are eating was correctly described.
“It is the responsibility of food businesses to ensure the food they sell contains what it says on the label," said the agency.
“We are considering, with the local authority, whether legal action is appropriate following the investigation.”
Horse meat action
A Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) report recently identified the presence of horse meat in frozen burgers, including one with 29% supplied to Tesco.
3663 said that it recognised a connection between a halal beef producer mentioned within the FSAI report and a supplier of halal savoury beef pastry products stocked for the MOJ.
It added that it tested the products over fears they may contain horse meat but instead found pork DNA traces.
“We took immediate steps to inform the MOJ of this potential connection purely as a precautionary measure and together took the decision that these halal savoury beef pastry products should be quarantined to prevent their use pending DNA testing.”