LONDON – A supplier of halal meat in Britain has been suspending after traces of pork were found inside meat pies and pasties submitted to prison, sparking fury from Muslims.
“This is an absolutely unacceptable situation and one which we regret greatly,” Justice Minister Jeremy Wright told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Traces of pork were found in food deliveries to prisons by a local halal meat supplier.
Discovering the issue, Wright ordered all prisons to withdraw halal-labeled products immediately.
“Clearly this must be distressing for those affected and they can be reassured we are doing everything we can to resolve the situation,” he said.
“The Prison Service is investigating this as a matter of urgency.”
Muslims do not eat pork and consider pigs and their meat filthy and unhealthy to eat.
The incident was made public after a spokeswoman for the Food Standards Agency said the halal meat supplied to prisons involved traces of pork.
“The FSA has been informed that a number of meat pies and pasties supplied to UK prisons which were labeled and served as Halal contained traces of pork DNA,” she said.
“The local authority (where the supplier is based) is investigating how this contamination came about and whether these products have been distributed further across the UK.”
The discovery comes after horsemeat was found in beefburgers stocked by major British supermarket chains, with one brand of burger coming in at 29 percent horse.
Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority, estimated at nearly 2.5 million.
The concept of halal, — meaning permissible in Arabic — has traditionally been applied to food.
Muslims should only eat meat from livestock slaughtered by a sharp knife from their necks, and the name of Allah, the Arabic word for God, must be mentioned.
The suspension of the halal food supplier won plaudits in Britain.
“This is not a matter of dietary preference but of Islamic law,” Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust campaign group, said.
“There are clear hospital and prison rules that halal meat must be on the menu.
“This lapse will have offended and distressed high numbers of Muslim prisoners and their families so apologizing, suspending the supplier and investigating the incident are the right steps for the MoJ to take,” she said.
The FSA spokeswoman echoes a similar message.
“People have a right to expect that the food they are eating is correctly described,” she said.
“We have called an urgent meeting of major retailers and suppliers on Monday to ensure that everyone is fully aware of their responsibilities.
“It is the responsibility of food businesses to ensure the food they sell contains what it says on the label.
“We are considering, with relevant local authorities, whether legal action is appropriate following the investigation,” she said.
The revelations, however, offended high number of Muslim prisoners and their families.
“This is very serious because no Muslim would ever eat pork meat – anything to do with pork,” Editor of the Muslim News, Ahmed Versi, told the BBC.
“It must be very distressing for those in prison who have been given this meat to realize they may have been eating food which was contaminated with pig.”