Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Lancashire plays key role in horsemeat tests

Lancashire County Council is playing a key role in identifying the full range of products that have been contaminated with horsemeat, as part of the national investigation led by the Food Standards Agency.

Trading Standards Officers have been out sampling beef products around the county for DNA tests at the council's Public Analysts laboratory. Lancashire Trading Standards is one of 28 services across the UK selected to take part in the FSA programme.

And scientists at the lab, based on Riversway Docklands in Preston, are pulling out all the stops to test samples for Trading Standards and hundreds of concerned businesses.

County Councillor Albert Atkinson, deputy leader of Lancashire County Council, said:! "We have a big part to play in the current investigation with our officers being engaged on two fronts - Trading Standards are visiting businesses to take samples and carry out inspections at meat suppliers to ensure products can be traced to their source.

"At the same time our Public Analysts laboratory is very busy, being only one of seven laboratories in the country accredited to carry out the tests which retailers have been asked to do by the Food Standards Agency.

"I'd like to reassure people we're doing all we can to assist with the Food Standards Agency investigation, to ensure that consumers in Lancashire and further afield know exactly what they're eating."

Analysts at the lab have ordered in dozens of extra testing kits and are working at weekends to try to meet the demand from businesses keen to check their own products after horse DNA was discovered in beefburgers, readymade lasagne and spaghetti bolognese.
Tests for Lancashire-based businesses are being prioritised, though samples have been sent from as far afield as Gibraltar. All are being charged the standard rate for such tests, though it is believed that some private sector competitors have upped their fees because of high demand.

The county council's Trading Standards officers regularly carry out inspections and sampling of meat products at establishments where they are manufactured.

Andrew Smith, Lancashire County Council's public analyst, said: "We've had to take swift action to be able to cope with the amount of testing that we're being asked to do, but I'm pleased to say that the team has responded fantastically.

"It's a great opportunity to be able to let people know about our service, which works with environmental health and trading standards teams from across the north west, ensuring that goods are safe and don't contain bogus or dangerous substances.

"Essentially, all retailers have been asked to have their meat tested within a! week which is a huge undertaking. We have ordered further testing kits so we can cope with the demand, and so far we are ahead of schedule."

• For more information and advice on the investigation into horsemeat in beef products, visit the Food Standards Agency website www.food.gov.uk

• If you have any suspicions about the use of any undeclared ingredients in food products, please contact Citizens Advice Consumer advice line on 08454 04 05 06

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