As part of a "relentless" inquiry into horsemeat mislabelling, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) have issued advice to schools and other public institutions that may have stocked affected products.

The horsemeat scandal began last month when Irish authorities discovered horsemeat in some burgers stocked by a number of UK supermarket chains.

Horsemeat has also been found in branded and supermarket-own ready meals, including lasagne and spaghetti bolognese. Some Findus frozen beef lasagne, made by a French food processing company, were found to have up to 100% horsemeat in them.

The crisis has spread across Europe as details of the convoluted supply chain in the meat industry emerged.

The FSA in the UK has ordered food businesses to carry out tests on all processed beef products and the first results are expected on Friday. They are testing for the presence of horsemeat and pork.

Amid suspicions that horsemeat may have been served in public institutions such as schools and hospitals, the FSA have delivered the following interim advice:

"Public institutions (schools, prisons, hospitals, armed forces) are within the scope of the UK-wide authenticity sampling programme being organised by the Food Standards Agency. Therefore, suppliers (such as caterers) of meat products to schools and hospitals are included within that surveillance programme.

"In addition, suppliers – including caterers – to public institutions are part of the extensive testing regime the Food Standards Agency has established with the food industry, including food service businesses.

"This approach means we will now have an established industry testing plan, with the FSA undertaking additional verification and validation of authenticity while ensuring that industry takes responsibility for providing assurance to consumers, with the FSA providing appropriate oversight.

"We are reminding public bodies (schools, prisons, hospitals, armed forces) of their responsibility for their own food contracts. We expect them to have rigorous procurement procedures in place, with reputable suppliers.

"We are keeping the appropriate Government departments in close touch with developments, making sure that they are aware of the above and that if any public authorities have any concerns they should seek assurances on authenticity from their suppliers. It remains the case that the issues identified so far suggest gross negligence and possibility criminality, but no food safety risks.

"If public institutions are not satisfied with assurance from suppliers, then they should take appropriate action depending on the circumstances. Where evidence of authenticity is not produced, that action may include requiring the supplier to conduct tests, and reject or temporarily withhold stock, while waiting for results."

The agency expects to release more advice once further tests have been conducted. For more information visit http://food.gov.uk

Posted 14/02/2013 by richard.hook@pavpub.com