A DOWNTON company has withdrawn a number of its products after traces of pork DNA were found in halal food it supplied for Muslim prisoners.

The food distributor 3663, based in Salisbury Road, initially tested its own products fearing horsemeat may have contaminated them, following the scandal in which Tesco and a number of other supermarket chains had to withdraw contaminated burgers from their shelves.

But instead they were “shocked” to find pig DNA in savoury beef pastry products meant for Muslims in British prisons.

Islamic law forbids the consumption of pork.

A spokesman for the company said: “This is a wholly unacceptable situation and one that we deeply regret.

“We are, however, relieved that our own prompt actions following identifying a potential risk from the Food Safety Agency of Ireland report enabled the earliest possible removal of these products from sale.”

The company, which gets its name from the numbers on a telephone keypad that spell ‘food’, has now removed all products from the manufacturer that supplied the contaminated items, McColgan Quality Foods Limited, which is a halal-certified supplier.

McColgan’s customers include Lidl, Nisa, Spar and Costcutter.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said that following 3663’s discovery, all prisons and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) were immediately informed before steps were taken to suspend the supplier.

The FSA said the local authority where the supplier is based is now investigating how the contamination came about, and whether products have been distributed elsewhere in the UK.

Justice minister Jeremy Wright said: ''This is an absolutely unacceptable situation, and one which we regret greatly. Clearly this must be distressing for those affected and they can be reassured we are doing everything we can to resolve the situation. The Prison Service is investigating this as a matter of urgency.''

The Prison Reform Trust said it welcomed the immediate apology and investigation.

Its director Juliet Lyon said: ''This is not a matter of dietary preference but of Islamic law. There are clear hospital and prison rules that halal meat must be on the menu.

''This lapse will have offended and distressed high numbers of Muslim prisoners and their families so apologising, suspending the supplier and investigating the incident are the right steps for the Ministry of Justice to take.''