Oct 7 2010 By David Baker, Harrow Observer
LETTERS have been sent to all secondary schools in the borough asking them to reconsider having halal-only menus in a dramatic U-turn by Harrow Council.
In June, the Observer revealed the council had suggested catering company Harrisons, who provide halal-only menus, to supply primary schools in the borough following their success in secondary schools.
But following widespread complaints, we can confirm the contract with Harrisons for primary schools has been put on hold.
The council has also confirmed it has sent letters to secondary schools asking them ‘to respect and recognise the views of the whole community’.
Schools decide which catering firm they employ and the council previously told a national newspaper that it was the responsibility of head-teachers to inform parents and pupils if they opted for halal-only menus.
But the council has been inundated with complaints about its decision to recommend the firm and Harrow’s Interfaith Council has said the policy could attract unwanted attention from anti-Islamic groups.
In light of the uproar surrounding the issue, council chiefs met with Harrow’s Interfaith Council ‘to find a resolution’.
Brian Gate, portfolio holder for schools and colleges, told the Observer: “While it is for schools to choose their catering contractor, I have written to all secondary head-teachers in Harrow and urged them, as key community leaders, to respect and recognise the views of the whole community.
“Harrow is one of the most diverse boroughs in the country, but a borough which is enriched by such diversity and where people from different backgrounds get on well together.
“Many of the groups that have contacted us or your paper have expressed their fears that the issue of halal meat can threaten these community relations. We must not allow that to happen.”
Operations manager at the Halal Food Authority, Saqib Mohammed, responded to the council’s U-turn, saying: “I think that from a community perspective it is a good thing that all foods are labelled and all religious groups and their dietary requirements are met, so the decision to move away from halal-only menus is a good thing.
“Hopefully, as a result of this whole issue, people will start to educate themselves a bit better about religious meats now.”