FSA calls urgent meeting after halal food row

Major retailers and suppliers will hold an urgent meeting with Food Standards Agency (FSA) officials following further revelations in the horse and pigmeat scandal.

The meeting has been called for today (Monday 4 February) following news that pork DNA has been discovered in halal pies and pasties supplied to jails.

The supplier of the halal food containing pork DNA has been named as Northern Ireland’s McColgan Quality Foods, based in Strabane, County Tyrone.

Food distributing company 3663, which supplies food to prisons, said it had identified a “very small number of halal savoury beef pasty products” that had been supplied prisons in England and Wales. It said the products had not been distributed to other customers.

It confirmed that all halal products supplied by the manufacturer had been withdrawn.

The Ministry of Justice said it was suspending McColgan’s while the Prison Service carried out a full, urgent investigation. Justice minister Jeremy Wright said the incident was “absolutely unacceptable”.

The FSA agreed that the situation was unacceptable and that people “have the right to expect that the food they are eating is correctly described”.

“We have called an urgent meeting of major retailers and suppliers on Monday 4 February to ensure that everyone is fully aware of their responsibilities,” said the FSA in a statement.

“It is the responsibility of food businesses to ensure the food they sell contains what it says on the label.”

The local authority is investigating how these products were contaminated and whether they have been distributed further across the UK. The FSA warned it was considering, with the local authority, whether legal action was appropriate.

The discovery comes just days after a number of retailers, including Tesco, were found to be selling beefburgers containing horsemeat.

In a statement, McColgan’s said it had taken swift action to “identify, isolate and withdraw” all products that it supplies to the Prison Service while it investigates this “deeply regrettable and unforeseen incident”.

“McColgan’s is keen to stress that at no point has pork of any kind been included in the recipes of any of the halal-certified products it supplies,” the company added.

Under Islamic law, Muslims are strictly forbidden to eat pork.

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