THE UK farming industry has launched a national campaign urging consumers to 'Buy British' after horse DNA was found in cottage pies in 47 Lancashire schools.
Provisional tests on the pre-prepared product, which is made by an external supplier, were confirmed late on Thursday after Lancashire County Council decided to submit a range of beef products for analysis on behalf of the Food Standards Agency.
Council chiefs have stressed that the discovery 'did not appear' to be a food safety issue, but it was promptly withdrawn from school kitchens across the county.
As the Europe-wide horsemeat scandal grows with more and more revelations by the day, the National Farmers' Union (NFU) has launched a major drive promoting British farmers.
Adverts encouraging the public to buy British are running across the national press this weekend, highlighting the message 'Great British farmers produce Great British food' and 'lead the way in high standards for fresh food'.
And with consumer confidence leading the agenda, shoppers are being reminded to look out for the farm assurance logo, the Red Tractor, which stands for traceable and independently inspected food, from farm to pack.
Using the twitter hashtag #buybritish, the NFU will also be championing British produce on social media and encouraging consumers to show their support and buy food produced on British farms.
NFU Lancashire County Chairman Fred Ollerton said: "Parents will be rightly shocked that meals served to their children in schools have been contaminated with horsemeat.
"Although, reassuringly, the council has stated that there are no food safety issues, this is a clear indication that something has gone wrong in the way it sources meals for the county’s schoolchildren.
"Lancashire County Council needs to take urgent action to make sure that all meals it sources come from safe, reliable, assured British farms.
"This is an ideal opportunity for the council to look to use locally-sourced Red Tractor assured produce in all the meals it provides."
Lancashire county councillor Susie Charles, cabinet member for children and schools, said: "We share the concerns people have about what is clearly a major problem in food supplies across the UK and Europe.
"Because of those concerns we decided to seek extra assurance that our external suppliers were not providing any products containing horsemeat DNA, and one of the products has returned a positive result.
"Relatively few schools in Lancashire use this particular product but our priority is to provide absolute assurance that meals contain what the label says – having discovered this one doesn't, we have no hesitation in removing it from menus.
"This does not appear to be a food safety issue but I've no doubt parents will agree we need to take a very firm line with suppliers and it is a credit to our officers that we have been able to quickly identify the problem and take the product off the menus."
The NFU campaign is in direct response to the scandal which has seen horsemeat being passed off as beef in some imported frozen foods and has highlighted the complexity of the food chain in some products.