A Wakefield primary school with a Muslim-majorty intake has admitted that it served haraam school dinners to pupils despite the fact that they were labelled ‘halal.’
In a letter to parents on July 4, Outwood Primary Academy apologised for the mistake and said it is rectifying processes to ensure that it does not happen again.
It is not clear how the mistake was uncovered, but local sources have told 5Pillars that following an incident on June 29 an internal investigation was conducted revealing that the meat sourced by the school and served to all students was not halal.
Principal Martin Fenton said: “We took the decision as a school some years ago that all the meat we serve would be halal because that is important to the majority of our community. However, it came to my attention last week that some of the meat that we have served in the past was not halal despite the menus stating that it was. Once we became aware of this we immediately made a change to our ordering process so that from that point onwards we have rectified this and can confirm that all of the meat we serve will be halal.
“I know that you will be very disappointed to hear this news but I would like to reassure you that it was a mistake and I am very sorry that it has happened. I have been working with the senior leaders of the Outward Trust to make changes that will ensure that this will not happen again. We will be carrying out further inquiries to establish how this mistake was made but I hope at this time that you will be reassured that we have taken action to put this right for the benefit of all our children and families.
“From September 1st processes will be further strengthened as an external catering company will take over our operations. They are specialists in this field and will give full assurance that the meals served meet these important requirements.”
Following the revelation a meeting was arranged with the school and representatives of local masjids led by Hafiz Muhammad Mateen Anwar, of Jamia Masjid Swafia, as well as local councillors.
Imam Muhammad Mateen Anwar said: “This occurrence is of utmost seriousness and should never have taken place given the significance it holds within the Muslim community. With a population of 76% Muslim children attending the school, Outwood Academy’s failure to provide genuinely Halal meals is deeply distressing.”
He added: “Whilst the school has now changed their meat supplier for the remainder of the school term, please be aware the supplier of the school is not certified by the Halal Monitoring Committee (HMC). The school, however, will be providing vegetarian options, fish options and also allow packed lunches to be brought onto site for lunch. From September 2023 however, the school have confirmed that the meat supplier of their meals will be HMC certified and no other supplier will supply them with any meat.”
Imam Muhammad Mateen Anwar said many parents are deeply upset but reassured them that the consumption of non-halal food unknowingly does not render one sinful.
He also advised parents to tell their children to opt for vegetarian choices until September.
“After discussing the importance of halal requirements with the school, we have found them to be genuinely apologetic, and they have provided assurances that such an incident will not occur again. As part of their efforts, they are implementing stricter food handling processes. The school has been transparent about this error, and we are satisfied with their commitment to rectify the situation…
“After conducting thorough due diligence, we confirm to all members of the Muslim community that the food served in this specific school will only be HMC certified from September 2023. Prior to then, please exercise caution and opt for the vegetarian option, fish option, or arrange for packed lunches to be brought. The school have also confirmed that there will be no pork brought onto site anymore therefore no risk of cross contamination.
“Going forward, the Outwood Academy Grange Trust is looking to arrange HMC certification for themselves which will regulate its kitchens ensuring halal compliance for all its schools in the Wakefield district and confirmation of this will be provided in due course.”