Government horse-meat hit squad to target Derbyshire
TRADING standards officers will swoop on Derbyshire beef sellers in a Government-ordered national probe into whether their products contain horse or pig meat.
Shops, wholesalers, and caterers in the county, not including Derby city, will all be checked as part of the work demanded by the Food Standards Agency.
The investigations in 28 local authority areas follow a number of beef products being removed from sale in the UK after various levels of horse meat were found in them.
An agency statement on the work being carried out said: "The aim is to select products which are representative of goods on the market, with extra emphasis on brands at the lower end of the market, particularly burger-type products.
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"Market research and household spending data have been used to inform the choice of outlets and brands."
Samples of beef products will be taken in Derbyshire and sent away to labs, with the results expected in early April.
The agency says it has selected areas to be checked in a bid to get a "geographical spread" of results from across the country and for no other reason.
Its statement says that "samples and analysis" will be gathered in such a way that they can be used in any "enforcement action" that follows.
A county council spokeswoman said the checks would include "tests on burgers, meatballs and minced beef".
Councillor Kevin Parkinson, the authority's cabinet member for regeneration, said: "We are supporting the Government's drive to thoroughly investigate beef products so consumers can be confident in what they are buying. Every year we take hundreds of food samples, including ensuring what we're testing is correctly labelled."
Councillor Mike Longden, the council's cabinet member for education, said "stringent checks" had been carried out on Derbyshire school meals with no horse meat detected.
He said: "In the wake of the national concern this issue is causing I'm keen to pre-empt any worries parents might have by making it clear our school meals meet the very highest standards.
"We have a supplier who provides our fresh mince and they are subject to regular checks."
A spokesperson for Chartwells, contracted by Derby City Council to provide meals for those schools which have not opted out of getting supplies from the authority, said no traces of horse meat had been found in its meals.
They said: "We have asked our meat suppliers to reconfirm compliance with the required traceability, testing and hygiene processes to ensure the integrity of their products is maintained. We have received this confirmation from all of our core meat suppliers, who also confirmed no contaminated products were supplied."
Products recalled from sale as part of the scandal include lasagne and spaghetti bolognese.