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Thursday, 17 April 2014

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Horse meat scandal could boost Cumbrian traders

An abattoir boss says he’s confident all in his industry won’t be tarred with the same brush despite the horse meat contamination scandal showing no signs of easing.

Abattoir photo
From left, partner Brian Wharton and butcher John Irving at Black Brow Abbatoir

Maurice Wharton, owner of Black Brow Abattoir, near Wigton, is among a growing number of people in Cumbria’s food industry who believe local traders could, in fact, benefit from the furore.

He spoke as it emerged that horse meat has been discovered in school dinners. The news that cottage pie testing positive for horse DNA was sent to 47 Lancashire schools came as the Food Standards Agency (FSA) published results of widespread testing into meat products.

The FSA said 2,501 tests have been carried out on beef products, with 29 results positive for undeclared horse meat at or above one per cent.

As the results were confirmed, pub and hotel group Whitbread – owners of Premier Inn, Beefeater Grill and Brewers Fayre, of which there are outfits in Cumbria – became the latest company to admit horse DNA had been found in its food, saying their meat lasagnes and beefburgers had been affected.

But Mr Wharton believes local abattoirs and butchers will not suffer because shoppers will turn to suppliers they know they can trust.

He said: “They will go back to using their local butchers – you know what you are getting.

“Even in February butchers are finding more business because of this.”

Mr Wharton said what had happened was a “disgrace” and added: “I have been in the meat trade for 40-odd years and I never suspected that anything like this would be happening.”

He said that the problem was not with small rural abattoirs, supplying local butchers, but the larger industrial-scale operations.

“It’s a minority – but it’s on a large scale,” he added. “

Despite the discovery of horse DNA in Lancashire’s school meals, there is no threat to those served in Cumbria.

Cumbria County Council says it works closely with food suppliers to check the provenance of meat supplies.

Fresh meat for the council’s food services is procured using locally-sourced meat, within a radius of 50 miles.

Frozen meat is supplied by Carlisle company Pioneer, which is not supplied by any manufacturers linked to the scandal.

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