The head of Tayside Contracts has fired back at critics after parents shared photos of “revolting” meals served to pupils at Perth and Kinross secondary schools.
Perthshire North MSP John Swinney was among those who raised concerns about the quality of school meals in his constituency after images of unappetising lunches -including a grey turkey burger and a barely recognisable chicken and bacon sandwich – appeared on social media.
Mr Swinney, who is also the Scottish Government’s education secretary called Tayside Contracts – the trading arm of Dundee, Angus, and Perth and Kinross councils – to explain the “clearly unacceptable” situation.
In response, Managing Director Ian Waddell insisted this was a “very isolated” case and has invited Mr Swinney to any Tayside school to sample some lunch.
Mr Waddell said he had accepted the original photo of a turkey burger was “sub-standard” but insisted it was an isolated incident.
He said: “Unfortunately, there has continued to be negative media coverage of our school meals service, in particular some ill-informed and at times quite disgraceful comments about our service on social media.
“As such, Tayside Contracts feels compelled to respond publicly to put this very isolated instance into perspective, against a backdrop of over six million school meals served every year which consistently generate positive feedback from our customers.”
He said his company was at the vanguard of taking forward the Scottish Government’s healthy eating agenda. “We are proud of the role we have played and will continue to play in contributing to the health and wellbeing of Scotland’s young people.”
Mr Waddell said recent coverage was “extremely disappointing” and included claims that were damaging to Tayside Contracts’ reputation.
“I am concerned that it may also have a demoralising impact on our catering employees who work so hard.
“I have extended an invite to John Swinney to accompany me to any school in Tayside to witness for himself the quality of meals we provide each and every day.
“I am sure he will be reassured and delighted to see that Tayside Contracts provide a school meal service which stands comparison to the very best.”
Mr Swinney said he had been “very concerned” by the photos shared by parents and intended to take up the offer.
“This concern has only deepened following conversations with several constituents,” he said.
“Given the very clear guidance that exists around the quality of school meals, I am keen to understand Tayside Contracts’ interpretation of their responsibilities, and whether they believe that the food they are currently offering lives up to the requirements of this guidance.”
He said he wrote to Mr Waddell to “seek his views on this clearly unacceptable matter”.
The mother of a pupil at Blairgowrie High School reported her daughter’s grey turkey burger to Perth and Kinross Council’s Facebook page on Friday and the post quickly went viral.
Since then, further images were passed on to The Courier, including a bacon and chicken roll that was served at Perth Grammar School.
The row comes as Perth and Kinross Council re-considers its controversial frozen school meals plan.
The scheme, which would see dinners prepared in a central production unit (CPU) at Dundee before being frozen and delivered to schools across Tayside, is listed as “at risk” in a report to councillors.
An updated report will go before councillors on September 25.