Green councillors have demanded answers on how the City Council has dealt with the horsemeat in schools scandal and urged a major rethink in the way food is provided.
Last week it was revealed that up to six Edinburgh schools may have been supplied with minced beef with traces of horse meat. Food safety spokesperson, Chas Booth has submitted a series of questions to council environment chief Lesley Hinds, seeking clarity about the timing of testing and information going to parents and also seeking future reassurance on food on council premises.
However, Cllr Booth has also warned about simply jumping from the frying pan to the fire if nothing is done about complex and remote food supply chains. He wants to see the current Food for Life pilot, taking place in 3 schools and 1 care home, alongside NHS Lothian and Edinburgh University, rolled out across the council as a matter of urgency.
“When I raised concerns about trust in food in schools and other council premises on 14 March little did I realise that the City Council was already sitting on a powder-keg. Parents need to know why it took over a month between food being tested for horsemeat and letters going to parents. They also need to know why no-one was on hand to explain things further on Good Friday when the Council issued its press release.
“But really horsemeat is just the latest in a long line of a symptoms of a food system that has gone badly wrong. As long as we continue to deal with huge corporations whose focus is on volume and profit we’ll face these problems.
“So that is why I am calling on the Council to see this as an opportunity to revamp its catering, putting fresh, nutritious and local produce at the heart. If it does that it will rebuild confidence in and uptake of school dinners, benefit local producers and set a lead for the kind of food culture the capital should champion.”
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A. The questions submitted to the City Council on 1 April are:
1. On what date did the City Council first get indication that there was potentially horsemeat in minced beef provided for school dinners? When in “late February” was the sample taken and when did the Council get a positive result on presence of horsemeat?
2. What is the explanation for the delay in informing parents?
3. What direct communication did the Council have with 3663 or the PPP contractor following 3663’s recall of contaminated beef on 8 March? When did that communication take place?
4. Why was there no-one at hand with the appropriate seniority and expertise to explain the chain of events and the scientific background when the council issued its press release on Friday 29 March 2013?
5. What steps is the Council taking to test school meals and other council provided catering and over what timescale?
6. What discussions is the Council having with catering suppliers to ensure trust and transparency in food offered?
B. Motion to Full Council on 14 March: passed by Council
9.2 By Councillor Booth – Trust in the Food We Eat
1) notes concerns about food sourcing and transparency of the food supply chain in light of the recent horse meat scandal;
2) agrees that locally sourced food and short supply chains can help give consumers confidence in the food they eat;
3) agrees to receive a report setting out:
a) what steps the council is taking to ensure that food provided by the council or used in council establishments meets all the standards of food sourcing and food supply chain transparency that the public and service users would reasonably expect; and
b) what measures could be taken to accelerate and expand the current Food for Life pilot which is seeking to increase the use of fresh, local and organic food in partnership with NHS Lothian and the University of Edinburgh.”