Scores of canteens wipe beef off menu
Around 100 primary schools in West Glamorgan have responded to parental concern by removing burgers, sausages and minced beef from school dinner menus. A spokeswoman said that pressure to stop serving beef products had been building for several weeks. "The LEA is still following government advice that beef is safe. But a number of parents of children in primary schools, where there is only one main course, have asked for beef to be taken off the menu."
Fears that bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, could trigger Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans increased last week after an inquest found that a 69-year-old Swansea woman had died from the disease.
Scientific opinion is divided over whether BSE-infected meat could enter the food chain through offal used in some processed beef products.
About 20 schools in Staffordshire have replaced beef on school menus since the LEA's catering director, Marlene Hulland, wrote to them last month.
"All we are doing is erring on the side of caution until someone can definitively say that beef is safe," she said. The county's catering service barred mechanically recovered beef from its meals two years ago.
Beef is to be phased out from menus in Salford's 70 primary schools from January, but will stay on secondary menus. The city council previously banned beef during the original BSE scare four years ago.
In Surrey, up to a dozen schools have stopped offering beef dishes, while 47 of Suffolk's 345 schools have decided not to offer the meat. "We are merely responding to parental demands," a spokeswoman said.
Humberside, Oldham, Norfolk, Avon, Wiltshire and Croydon have also recommended a ban.
Arnold Fewell, of the Local Authority Catering Association, which represents about 700 contract caterers and food suppliers, said that school caterers were still unclear about the risks.
Gardner Merchant, a catering company which provides meals for some 100 state schools and 250 private schools, reported that only a handful had asked them to remove beef, and that children's eating habits had changed.
"There has been a distinct shift from red to white meat, fish, and vegetarian items," a spokesman said.