Further reassurance from Hampshire County Council in the wake of national horsemeat issue
Wednesday 20 February 2013
Hampshire County Council Trading Standards (HCC TS) have been involved in the first part of the Food Standards Agency's (FSA) national sampling programme to investigate the extent of horsemeat in food products.
The FSA, which is responsible for food safety and food hygiene across the UK, has advised that at present there are no known risks to public safety or health, their investigations at this point are concerned with the serious mislabelling of products. Based on specific criteria laid down by the FSA, this has involved us taking food samples from eight premises at various levels in the food supply chain e.g. small butchers shops, retailers, caterers and large and small wholesalers. In addition five samples of locally produced ready meals are also being taken.
This has been coordinated nationally, alongside action by the industry, to avoid duplication and the samples have been submitted to Hampshire Scientific Service as our Public Analyst for onward transmission to be analysed by Worcester Scientific Service for horsemeat DNA. Worcester Scientific Service is one of only a few enforcement laboratories able to undertake the testing required by the FSA. The FSA is expected to announce the full results of its sampling survey in April.
Leader of Hampshire County Council, Cllr Ken Thornber, said: "I am pleased that Hampshire County Council is part of the rapid response force conducting testing programmes all across the country as part of our ongoing work with food businesses in Hampshire to ensure that the labelling and composition of food complies with the law. We are doing all we can to ensure people are buying food that is as stated on the label. According to the FSA there is currently no known risk to public safety or health.
"Parents of Hampshire schoolchildren and the families of residents in Hampshire County Council care homes can be assured that beef in their meals is 100% beef. We take the food chain back to source by looking at where the food comes from, and we also carry out strict hygiene and cleanliness checks in school kitchens to ensure that the meals served to children remain of the highest standard.
"In addition, our Hampshire Scientific Service check at source, the suppliers of food provided by the County Council, and carry out stringent checks throughout the year, from supply to kitchen and all the stages in between, which also include verifying the authenticity of ingredients. Few other local authorities do this.
"We also enforce standards through our Trading Standards Service and we have a higher focus than many authorities in this area.
"As a result of this thorough approach, we have been hailed an example of good practice and will continue to monitor the food we buy and supply, to ensure that we continue to meet our responsibilities, and provide reassurance to the people of Hampshire."
Hampshire County Council works with food businesses in Hampshire to ensure that the law relating to food standards is complied with, including the labelling and composition of food products. It provides advice and guidance to local food businesses to help them comply with the law, with resources focussed on working with higher risk activities such as large manufacturing businesses or those that have a history of not complying with the law. The Council has powers to take samples of food products to ensure that the labelling accurately reflects the content of the product and that people are buying what it says on the label.
To that end, in addition to the FSA sampling programme, HCC TS are also targeting visits to about 10 companies. Some of these are local producers whose supplies of meat are likely to be sourced in Europe. Most of these are already in the process of getting product analysed and are only releasing new product on a "positive release system" i.e. releasing only after the product has been checked and proven clear of horsemeat and HCC TS have been advising them on this and are taking some further samples as necessary. The other companies are cold/chill stores that are not companies routinely visited and we are checking their supply chains. Depending on further information further samples may be taken and the number of visits may be increased.