IT HAS been confirmed that Worcestershire County Council is testing school meals for the presence of horsemeat.
The news comes after cottage pie tested positive for horsemeat was delivered to schools in Lancashire. The product has since been withdrawn from 47 school kitchens.
The testing is being carried out by Worcestershire County Council's Scientific Services at a lab in Wainwright Road, Warndon, Worcester.
Paul Hancock, the council's public analyst and scientific advisor for Scientific Services, said: "A decision was taken earlier this week to proactively test meal samples from a number of primary and secondary schools throughout Worcestershire.
"We are one of a small number of local authorities across the country who have a specialist scientific testing facility and we feel it is appropriate that, in light of the recent horsemeat issues we should conduct these food tests both to re-assure parents and to help schools ensure that the meals they provide are of the required standard.
"The results of these tests will be released in due course."
Bishop Perowne CE Performing Arts College and Blessed Edward Oldcorne Catholic College, both in Worcester, Pershore High School and Queen Elizabeth Humanities College in Bromyard have spoken out to say they have no fears over contamination.
In a statement to parents, Bishop Perowne headteacher Julie Farr said:
"Due to the recent news coverage on beef products, we would like to reassure everyone that all meat served in the college canteen is fresh meat.
"We use a single supplier who informs us that all beef is 100 per cent UK. beef which means that it is born, reared and slaughtered in the UK.
"All beef meals are created by our own staff in the college kitchen. The beef they use is only from this supplier. We do not buy in, or serve any form of ready meal."
Clive Corbett, headteacher at Pershore, said to the best of the school's knowledge, all beef products purchased are 100 per cent beef and the only processed product it buys is a 100 per cent beef burger.
He said: "If ,however, any parents are at all concerned and wish us to offer an alternative menu item to any beef item stated we will happily do so.
"If they require any further information or have any concerns please do not hesitate to contact the school. Trading standards are familiar with our suppliers and confident that we are using trusted suppliers."
Although schools are responsible for their catering contracts, all food provided must comply with recognised health and safety, and food safety standards.
According to the county council, the majority of meat used in school lunches was whole meat and not processed meat.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has released new details of its latest tests into horsemeat in processed meals.
The body will report on the UK products after asking retailers and suppliers to provide "meaningful results" from tests to detect the presence of horse meat.
Pub and hotel group Whitbread became the latest company to admit horse DNA had been found in its food, saying their meat lasagnes and beefburgers had been affected.
The firm, which owns Premier Inn, Beefeater Grill and Brewers Fayre, said the products had been removed from their menus and will not be replaced until further testing has been carried out.
Meanwhile, burgers containing horsemeat had been supplied to hospitals in Northern Ireland, with David Bingham from the health service's Business Services Organisation, saying a range from a company in the Republic of Ireland had been withdrawn.
Northern Ireland's agriculture minister Michelle O'Neill has called a special meeting on the horse meat crisis.
Ahead of the FSA test results announcement, several major retailers said test results on processed meals have proven negative for horsemeat.
Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrisons, Iceland, Marks and Spencer and the Co-op said no horse meat was found in their products.
Asda withdrew its 500g beef bolognese sauce from shelves on Thursday after tests revealed the presence of horse DNA.
The company apologised to customers and said it was taking a "belt-and-braces approach" by removing a further three beef products made by the same supplier, the Greencore plant in Bristol, as a precaution.
The results were being released as police in Wales questioned three men arrested on suspicion of offences under the Fraud Act.
The trio were taken into custody from two plants inspected and temporarily shut down by the FSA on Tuesday.
Sources said Dafydd Raw-Rees, 64, owner of Farmbox Meats near Aberystwyth, was arrested along with a 42-year-old man.
A 63-year-old man was also arrested on suspicion of the same offence at Peter Boddy Slaughterhouse in Todmorden, West Yorkshire.