THE BSE RISK: Pupils' menus changed

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The Independent Online
More than one-third of all schools have stopped serving beef at meals because of fears about BSE, it was revealed yesterday. A further wave of bans has been announced in the wake of Wednesday's confirmation of links between infected meat and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Local authority caterers said that 10,000 out of 30,000 schools in England and Wales had stopped serving beef because of earlier scares.

Bans were already in place in at least 15 local authority areas, some in all schools and some just in primary schools. Yesterday a further 11 authorities out of a total of 116 said either they were imposing an immediate ban or they were reviewing their school-meals policy.

Yesterday the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food cancelled a seminar scheduled for next week designed to persuade local authorities that beef was safe, saying that one of the main participants had had to drop out.

Last January Angela Browning, a junior minister, wrote to chief education officers expressing concern that they were not offering beef to children. "Beef is a safe and wholesome food and it would be unfortunate if growing children were denied it for no good reason," her letter said.

Yesterday the United Kingdom's biggest supplier of school meals, BET Catering Services, said the majority of local authorities in which it worked had already taken beef off primary school menus.

The Local Authority Caterers Association has joined ministers in asking the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee for clear guidance on the risks of serving beef to children.