MEAT destined for the region’s school children is being tested for horse DNA as local authorities seek assurances from suppliers over the continuing scandal.

North Yorkshire County Council has carried out spot tests of beef purchased from its main meat supplier and served in its schools.

The tests comes as local authorities across the region demand reassurances from suppliers that they are buying beef products which do not contain horsemeat.

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Don McLure, Durham County Council’s corporate director of resources, said: “We have sought and received assurances from all of our suppliers that there is no cause for concern regarding the products they provide.”

Many councils and other public bodies in the North-East obtain their meat through the North East Purchasing Organisation (NEPO).

Nobody from NEPO was available to comment last night, however Hartlepool Borough Council said NEPO had confirmed that its proactive checks had not found any horse DNA in products bought for the authority.

Other councils, including Darlington and Stockton, said they had been reassured by their suppliers that their meat products were horse-free.

North Yorkshire County Council said all meat supplied for its in-house food service was purchased from Gilmoors in Harrogate.

A recent audit of Gilmoors included an inspection of meat traceability records and the examination of raw meat stocks.

“The audit was satisfactory and showed that everything was in good order, “ a council spokesman said.

The authority is awaiting the results of tests of beef supplied to schools by Gilmoors, as well as processed meat products purchased on an ad hoc basis by a small number of schools.

NHS organisations have also held talks with their meat suppliers.

County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust (CDDFT), which runs Darlington and Bishop Auckland hospitals, said it had received assurances from all of its nominated suppliers that products were traceable.

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A spokesman added: “All of our suppliers are currently testing either the raw material or finished products, and to date no products within the trust have been affected.”

South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said it had also received assurances from its suppliers.

Meanwhile, Paragon Quality Foods, based in Armthorpe, near Doncaster, South Yorkshire, which supplies Whitbread with burgers has said it is investigating after horse DNA was detected in one of its products.

Nestlé, the world's biggest food company, said it had removed several beef pasta ready meals from sale in Italy and Spain after finding traces of horse DNA.

The company later confirmed that tests on all of its processed beef products sold in the UK and Ireland had confirmed no presence of horsemeat.

The boss of frozen foods supermarket chain Iceland apologised after suggesting that DNA testing for horse meat on behalf of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) had been carried out in unaccredited labs.

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