Heads ‘never knew about burger move’

SCHOOL principals in the Portadown area were never informed about the removal of burgers from their menus due to the horsemeat scandal.

A spokesman for the Southern Education and Library Board (SELB) confirmed yesterday (Thursday) that it withdrew all fresh and frozen burgers from school menus immediately following the news in mid-January that horsemeat had been found in some processed beef products.

However, it appears that no principals were informed by the board. Several heads contacted by the Portadown Times said they only learned of the move on yesterday morning’s news.

The board has since confirmed burgers have been reintroduced in schools where the meat supplier had been checked out and their product confirmed to be beef.

“Principals in the Southern Board have not received any direct information on this matter,” said one head. “After speaking to our cooks I can confirm that burgers were taken off our menu when the horsemeat scandal first broke about three weeks ago. But principals and obviously parents were not notified directly and we were unaware of this. I feel we should have been notified.”

The source also confirmed that fresh burgers were only off the school’s menu for just over a week, but added that some frozen products remained on the banned list.

The spokesman for the board said the burgers were removed last month “pending clarification from suppliers of the status of their products”.

He added, “Burgers have been reinstated on school menus by SELB Catering Service following receipt of confirmation from suppliers that all meat supplied was from a bovine source.”

The education board could not confirm how many suppliers have been checked and how many schools have reintroduced burgers, but he stressed that in schools where they were back on the menu, all the relevant checks had been completed.

The other education board to withdraw burgers is the South Eastern Board which began taking frozen burgers off the menus on Wednesday.

Last month, Irish authorities discovered horsemeat in some burgers stocked by some UK supermarket chains.

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill said 2012 had been an “exceptionally difficult year” for farmers and the horsemeat controversy was “therefore a very unwelcome development”.