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Cumbria County Council update on meat supplies

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The recent national controversy around contaminated meat supplies and illegal horsemeat and pork being found in meat labelled as beef or halal is of interest to the County Council on number of levels:

  1. Trading Standards is involved as part of the food labelling and food testing regime and for monitoring the movements of animals, abattoir supplies, horse passports etc.

  2. Resources manage the quality of food supplies to schools, care homes, meals on wheels etc through its procurement service and foodservices delivery. Foodservice consultancy advice is also provided to schools that donít buy the councilís managed Foodservice.

  3. Adult and Local Services provides foodservices through Cumbria Care and County Council care homes.

  4. Childrenís Services offer support for schools generally but also where schools operate outwith council foodservice provision and procure food either via the councilís procurement team or otherwise.

The County Council always works closely with its food suppliers to check the provenance of meat supplies as a matter of course and in a sense the national controversy has not changed the rigorous practices which have been in operation anyway. Nevertheless, we have been reassured by our suppliers that none of the meat supplied to the county council is at all linked to any of the manufacturers associated with the current concerns (Liffey Meats, Silvercrest Foods or Dalepak Humbleton) and the fresh meat procured for the councilís food services is procured locally using locally sourced meat (ie within a radius of 50 miles). Our frozen meat is supplied by Pioneer Ė which is not supplied by any manufacturers linked to the current concerns.

As part of DEFRAís and the Food Standards Agencyís national drive to allay the current concerns on food standards, a rigorous process of self-regulation is underway and suppliers are being asked to check their own supplies (which is why we are suddenly seeing so many product recalls from the likes of Tesco and Aldi). Therefore the council has re-checked all its suppliers and we are as sure as we can be that our supplies are not affected and our existing strict contractual guidelines around food safety, transparency and traceability of ingredient provenance have protected our supply chain.

The county council welcomes and supports the authenticity programme being undertaken by the Food Standards Agency and is reassured that through our rigorous procurement process, the meat and meat products we use are authentic.

Trading Standards role in Food Standards 
The responsibility for securing safe food for consumers rests with the Food Standards Agency, but frontline responsibility for food standards and ensuring that food is labelled correctly is exercised by trading standards in local authorities.
Trading Standards officers carry out a planned programme of inspections under the Food Safety Act 1990 at different food premises in Cumbria including bakers, butchers, supermarkets, cafes, restaurants and public houses. The frequency of inspection visits will depend upon the risk different premises present and will vary between one and five years. Some food premises and businesses present a higher risk to the consumer depending on the type of business, nature of the food prepared, the size of the business and previous compliance levels.

Our officers work with the Food Standards Agency, other Trading Standards departments and Environmental Health Officers from the district councils in the area. Officers also work closely with local businesses to provide advice, and while there are sometimes exceptions, local food businesses in Cumbria generally have a very high level of compliance with food standards requirements.
The Councilís Trading Standards Service is participating in a UK-wide survey of food authenticity in processed meat products for the presence of horse or pig DNA in a range of beef. This work is in addition to the routine sampling work that has already taken place. The aim is to select products that are representative of goods on the market and samples will be taken at a number of premises across Cumbria. The samples will be taken in such a way that, if necessary, enforcement action can be taken to protect consumers.

  • In the last 3 years Trading Standards has carried out 2347 food standards inspections at high and medium risk food premises and analysed 371 food samples.

  • Less than 5% of inspections identified a significant non-compliance issue and require further enforcement action such as formal warning, caution or prosecution.

  • Non-compliance could include persistently selling out of date food, and incorrect labelling (such as not listing allergens or the full ingredient list) but some examples of food fraud in Cumbria include:
    - substituted alcohol
    - illegal slaughter/poaching
    - mis-described foods - eg coley sold as sea bass
    - misleading health claims
    - food described as 'local' when it was imported

  • Trading Standards has brought 5 food standards prosecutions in the last 3 years, none of these relate to meat products.

  • Trading standards has not found any examples of horsemeat before the current scandal, but did have a case of pork in minced beef a few years ago