Council gives assurances on horsemeat

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AS THE Europe-wide scandal rolls on, Scottish Borders Council insists none of the food used in any of its catering contains horsemeat.

Statistics suggest that some wary consumers are already turning their backs on supermarket meat products for fear of what might be in them, and a Berwickshire butcher noticed an uplift in trade as early as last weekend, just days after the story hit the headlines.

A number of questions have been raised about food supply chains following the news that a number of companies found significant traces of horsemeat in their products, but Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for corporate improvement, Councillor Michael Cook, said residents in the region should have no such fears in regard to dishes served up by the local authority.

He commented: “We have been assured by our suppliers, which are chosen as part of a national procurement process, that their supply chain does not include any of the abattoirs or companies known to be affected by the current crisis. We are continuing to monitor the situation closely. SBC is also participating in the Food Standards Agency Scotland’s targeted food standards inspections to establish appropriate declaration of animal species in meat products.

“The aim of this is to ensure that consumers’ interests are being appropriately protected in relation to the declaration of meat species in products.

“This includes compliance with labelling declarations, descriptions and commercial specifications.”

Statistics highlighted by Scottish environment secretary Richard Lochhead suggest that some customers have already been put off from buying meat from supermarkets and a local butcher has enjoyed an increase in trade since news of the horsemeat scandal broke.

John Foreman, who owns R.G. Foreman in both Eyemouth and Norham, says eating supermarket horsemeat is unlikely to be harmful, but points out that there is far less risk for those who shop at a local butchers.

“Everyone coming into the shops has been talking about it,” he said. “Whether it was cracking a joke about it or wanting to know where we got our meat from.

“I’m always happy to tell people that we get all our beef from cattle – just down the road from where I live in Norham.

“A bit of horse meat probably won’t do you any harm, but if people want to be 100 per cent safe and have complete confidence in what they’re eating, going to their local butchers is their best bet.”

Although some experts say that eating horsemeat shouldn’t be any more dangerous than beef to eat, there is concern that some horses are given a drug called bute (phenybutazone) which can be dangerous to humans.