Horsemeat has been discovered in products produced by the company that supplies catering services for Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education, Exeter Crown Court and Lympstone Marine Camp.
French firm Sodexo, which also supplies hospitals, discovered “equine DNA” in one beef burger and two minced beef products from a supplier which would have been cooked for clients.
All frozen beef products supplied to the Exeter establishments by Sodexo have now been withdrawn.
The government's food hygiene website confirms that Sodexo Ltd provides Exeter Crown And County Court in Southernhay Gardens, Exeter Deaf Academy on Topsham Road and Lympstone Marine Camp with food and facilities services.
Sodexo Ltd is one of the world’s biggest catering firms, supplying more than 80 Army, Navy and RAF sites as well as primary and secondary schools and universities.
On Friday the company, which set up its own tests, confirmed plans to withdraw all frozen beef products from around 2,300 UK outlets.
It said in a statement:
“To reassure our customers, Sodexo has decided to withdraw all frozen beef products from its UK catering operations with immediate effect.
“Sodexo has had a pro-active programme in place to ensure that there is no horse meat in its supply chain.
“We demanded written assurances from across our supply chain that the products we purchase did not contain horse meat, and additionally implemented an internal sampling programme.
“Despite repeated guarantees from our suppliers, our sampling has identified a frozen beef product which tested positive for equine DNA. This situation is totally unacceptable.
“We felt the only appropriate response was to withdraw not only this product but all frozen beef products. We will only re-admit into our catering operations products that have affirmatively passed DNA testing, pursuant to laboratory test criteria.
“We have notified the FSA of our findings and will assist fully in its investigation. We have also launched our own investigation to understand how this regrettable situation arose.
“Food safety, traceability and quality remain the top priority for Sodexo and this is why we have taken these steps.Sodexo’s Tillery Valley Foods business which provides meals to the healthcare sector is not affected by the above.
In September 2008 Sodexo won £13m of new school meals and education catering contracts, with new contracts including the deaf school.
Labour environment spokesman Mary Creagh MP said:
‘It is deeply worrying that it has taken Sodexo several weeks to test for and discover horse.
‘Councils, schools and hospitals must have total confidence in their meat suppliers – and the Government’s advice that they should simply ask big catering companies for reassurance is totally ineffective.’
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said:
"Food businesses from throughout the industry, including retailers, manufacturers, caterers and other wholesalers, are putting enormous effort into getting this testing completed as quickly as possible. It’s an important first step from them in rebuilding the certainty and trust that consumers deserve.
“There is more work to be done to find out exactly how this happened and how to make the system much stronger."
It was also announced on Friday that Birds Eye has withdrawn three beef ready-meals from sale in the UK and Ireland because they were made by the company responsible for a chili con carne containing 2% equine DNA.
Representatives of the Deaf Academy, Crown Courts and Lympstone Marine camp were not available for quotes at this time.