By Fiona Dryden, Leicester Mercury
A new board has been set up by the city council to review standards and practices for buying food for schools, elderly people’s homes and other council venues.
It follows the withdrawal of halal lamb burgers supplied to 19 schools by Paragon Quality Foods in April after the council claimed tests showed up to 50 per cent pork in a sample burger.
However, this was disputed by the Doncaster firm which claimed independent tests it commissioned revealed the burger did not contain any pork at all.
Paragon Quality Foods had considered taking legal action but are believed not to have proceeded with this.
Leicester City Council has refused to reveal the results of further tests taken from the halal lamb burger because of an on-going investigation which, it says, could be “prejudiced”.
Seven members of council staff make up the new Food Procurement Board, including chairman Neil Bayliss – the head of procurement – alongside the head of care services, the education catering manager and others.
Mr Bayliss said: “The board was established to thoroughly review the council’s standards and practices for purchasing food.
“We want to ensure that all food bought by the city council is subject to the most robust quality assurance procedures and have worked closely with our contract provider, which has already increased the frequency of its monitoring and testing.
“All quality assurance standards will continue to be reviewed by the board on a regular basis.”
Leicester City Council uses Espo – Eastern Shires Purchasing Organisation – to supply school food contracts.
A council spokesman said: “Espo uses robust quality assurance procedures to monitor the supply chain.
“Under the terms of the contract, all suppliers are required to have third-party accreditation for their food safety and quality-management systems in order to supply the city council.
“Additionally, Espo conducts regular audits on the council’s behalf, including traceability checks to ensure meat products can be traced back to their original source.
“Product samples are independently analysed and Espo continuously monitors and tests school food.”
The city council said tests had been stepped up since April and Paragon Foods no longer supplies any food to schools.
Although Paragon Quality Foods manufactured the burger, it was supplied to the council by the firm Hopwells, whose nearest base is Nottingham.
All halal meat is now supplied to the council by the Punjab Kitchen Ltd, of Tyneside.
Neither Paragon Quality Foods nor Hopwells wished to comment.