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Horsemeat: Lochhead out of his depth, say Tories

Ruth Davidson: The public deserve to be told the facts. Picture: PA

Ruth Davidson: The public deserve to be told the facts. Picture: PA

  • by JULIA HORTON
 

Food minister Richard Lochhead is “out of his depth” and must make an emergency statement to Holyrood over the horsemeat scandal, the Scottish Conservatives said last night.

Party leader Ruth Davidson urged Mr Lochhead to reveal the “full facts” of the escalating crisis as it emerged that burgers were supplied to the Scottish Parliament by a catering firm which was found to have sold contaminated food.

Sodexo, which supplies hundreds of schools, care homes, office canteens and leisure centres, had to withdraw its beef products after a frozen meal tested positive for horse DNA.

A Scottish Parliament spokesman confirmed that the firm had supplied burgers to its restaurant. Despite written assurances from Sodexo that products sent to Holyrood were not affected, beef burgers were taken off the menu as a “precautionary measure”.

The call comes as Scotland’s 32 councils prepare for “urgent” talks, called by ministers after horsemeat was discovered at a Scottish school last week.

Ms Davidson said: “Richard Lochhead is clearly out of his depth in dealing with this escalating food crisis.

“Now we know that when he stood up in parliament last week, he was less than straight when he talked about the quality of food being served in our schools. Since then, we have discovered pupils may have been served horse meat in burgers.”

She added: “The public now deserve to be told the full facts to help restore confidence in the food chain.

“The only way this can be done is for Richard Lochhead to come back to the chamber and give a full account of how widespread the problem of horse meat contamination is in Scotland.”

The minister has been under growing pressure, with celebrity chef Nick Nairn joining politicians in demanding more action to ensure that school dinners were safe to eat.

Councils have been advised not to use any frozen beef in school meals until further investigations have been conducted, following the discovery of horse DNA in a burger at Cumbernauld High School in North Lanarkshire last week.

North Lanarkshire Council confirmed that the burger had been supplied by Brakes Group, which had withdrawn the product from sale.

The development brought fresh accusations from opposition MSPs that the Scottish Government had been complacent, following earlier concerns as the scandal broke that ministers had been “asleep on the job”.

Education minister Mike Russell joined Mr Lochhead at the weekend to announce that a schools summit would be held as soon as possible to discuss how to improve the quality of food served to pupils.

Tomorrow, the Scottish food advisory committee of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) will debate the crisis during its latest open meeting in Aberdeen.

A Scottish Government spokesman said Mr Lochhead would continue to keep MSPs updated with developments.

He said two expert food groups would be established to work on traceability and to liasise with the FSA.

The spokesman added: “Quality Meat Scotland will be asked to look into extending the ‘Scotch’ label into the processing sector.”

 

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