‘Halal’ concerns leading to Leeds school meals boycotting

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MUSLIM parents in Leeds who are worried about the origins of ‘halal’ meat in their children’s school meals are boycotting them in favour of vegetarian alternatives, it has been claimed.

The claim has led to council bosses offering reassurances that they are “confident” about the authenticity of their supplies.

A meeting of Leeds city council’s Children and Families Scrutiny Board was told that “people are not letting their kids eat halal because they are not confident it is genuinely halal”.

Coun Javaid Akhtar, speaking at yesterday’s meeting, said: “It’s important that we cater for all communities.

“I won’t ask my son to eat meat [at school] because I am not sure it is halal. I come across a number of parents who say their kids are eating vegetarian meals - and they are not vegetarian.”

He said that authentication from trusted experts based in the city, rather than sources or suppliers outside Leeds, would help.

“We need someone like an approved inspector, or an imam, to give approval,” he said.

Mandy Snaith, head of the council’s Catering Leeds arm, which supplies meals to 187 schools, said the council’s halal meat supplier has worked with many other local authorities and “we do have confidence” in them.

“We work closely with schools in the community to try and establish trust,” she added.

“We have got the approvals and the certificates through our supplier.

“But if we can do anything to improve confidence in communities then we would like to do that.”

Other panel members agreed it was important to “build confidence about where our food comes from”, both to groups with particular dietary and religious needs, and also on the wider issue of providing good quality, nutritional food in schools.

Karly Strawson and four-year-old Myles Smith, from Pontefract, strike a pose. Picture: James Hardisty

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