BEEF AT RISK: Change of menu likely

Despite the Government's refusal to urge schools not to serve beef products, more headteachers are expected to take it off menus, writes Paul Field.

Schools in many areas, including Essex, Hertfordshire, Lancashire, Surrey and Lincolnshire, already ban it. More than 600 London schools removed beef products from dinners in December. They were acting on advice by the Local Authorities Catering Association. A spokesman said up to 30 per cent of councils had withdrawn beef after pressure from parents. "Even though school meals are in the hands of the private sector, local authorities can exercise their powers to remove certain dishes."

A spokesman for the Association of County Councils said: "It is hard to say at this stage whether all schools will ban beef but it would not surprise me.''

Roger Denton, chairman of the Advisory Body for Social Services Catering, is to recommend councils consider withdrawing beef from menus at homes for the elderly, the mentally ill and children in care.

"After the scare before Christmas, the vast majority of local authorities withdrew beef completely. There is a school of thought that people should be able to make a choice of their own but many social services can only afford one choice on a menu. It is of great concern, because it is not long ago we were being told there is nothing to worry about at all.''