In response to the community’s concern, a meeting has been set up to take place this Thursday (14 March) where the issues will be discussed. The meeting will see leaders from halal and kosher certifying bodies take part in discussions with senior officials from Defra and the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
At the meeting, which is to take place at Eland House in London, officials will inform the certifying bodies about the work the government is carrying out to test for meat contamination in the food chain. There will also be a technical briefing on the different test methods available for identifying the presence of pork and horse DNA and their respective sensitivities. The acceptable levels of contamination and what is achievable in the industry will also be discussed.
Those at the meeting will also be given an overview of the possible routes for meat contamination and the controls in place to stop it from happening. However, the issues surrounding halal certification bodies and the way they work will not be discussed at the meeting.
Despite much concern over the contamination of halal meat products now, a routine inspection by the FSA of the Simply Halal slaughterhouse and cutting premises in Norfolk, that took place last year, revealed another area of concern. It was discovered that 25 beef quarters had left the site with their vertebral column. The inspection took place on 7 December last year and was published by the FSA recently.
The quarters were sold to a meat wholesaler, whose records were incomplete, which led to only one of the quarters being traced and detained. The FSA said: "This was destroyed. It is probable that meat from all the other quarters was consumed.
"The risk from the meat that entered the food chain is very low, as it is extremely unlikely that any of the animals involved had BSE. Only three cases of BSE were recorded in the UK in 2012. None of these animals entered the food chain."