SUPPLIERS today reassured tens of thousands of parents that school dinners in Sunderland are horsemeat-free.
The statement comes as the crisis deepens, prompting questions about where local authorities are sourcing their food from.
The first case of horsemeat in school dinners was found by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) last week in cottage pies delivered to 47 schools in Lancashire.
Today, butchers who supply meat for school dinners in Wearside say their products are stringently tested to ensure maximum quality.
Freeman Catering Butchers said: “We would like to explicitly state that we do not trade with any of the meat processing plants concerned.
“We take great pride in all of the meat that we sell, and the safety and quality of all our product is rigorously monitored. We have an expert technical team in place, and in addition to stringent checks and controls, we have conducted comprehensive DNA testing to ensure we meet and exceed all food safety requirements.
“The incident with horsemeat appears to be connected with beef imported from overseas abattoirs.
“Freeman is proud to only supply beef from cattle that was born, bred and slaughtered in the UK.”
There are 11,000 school meals serves up across schools in Sunderland every day and many of them contain meat. But council leaders say they work closely with suppliers to ensure the meals are of the correct nutritional value and quality.
Councillor James Blackburn, cabinet member for city services, said the authority had “received reassurances” about the supply chain which ends in the school canteen.
Brakes, which also supplies the city’s schools, added: “We would like to reassure customers that no Brakes brand products are sourced from the suppliers named and none of our own brand products have been implicated in any of these findings.
“Although none of our products are affected by these findings, as a further precaution Brakes is undertaking appropriate testing of specific products.
“For all Brakes branded beef product suppliers, we have had positive reconfirmation on the source, traceability and processing of the meat.
“Along with the wider industry, we are considering any requirements on sampling and testing of our products in line with the protocols recently announced by the FSA.”
A survey this week revealed 24 per cent of 2,257 adults quizzed by Consumer Intelligence said they will now buy less processed meat. Twenty-one per cent said they buy less meat, and 62 per cent were more likely to buy from independent shops.