Horse DNA has been found in cottage pies sent to 47 schools in Lancashire, it has emerged, proving for the first time that horse meat has found its way into British school dinners.
The council's own laboratory has been carrying out DNA tests on samples collected by its trading standards officers, and preliminary results show the presence of horse DNA in the school meals, which have been withdrawn.
Tom Walker, a spokesman for the council, said the samples would now be sent off to the Food Standards Agency for more thorough tests which will show what proportion of the meat is horse meat rather than beef.
In a statement the council said: "Lancashire County Council has withdrawn a beef product from 47 school kitchens after it provisionally tested positive for traces of horse DNA.
"The provisional results of the tests on a pre-prepared cottage pie from an external supplier were reported late yesterday evening, February 14, and have been passed on to the Food Standards Agency.
"The county council's catering service submitted a range of beef products from its suppliers to be analysed by Lancashire County Scientific Services, in accordance with Food Standards Agency guidelines."