British Sikh schoolchildren victims of meal fiasco

Sikh schoolchildren in Britain have recently been the victims of a food fiasco that involved halal meat, intended for Muslims in the outer London borough of Redbridge, being given to the Sikhs as well.

The shambles has led to concerns in the Sikh community that their religious needs are being ignored, because, as Jagtar Singh of the Sikh Federation of Britain explained: "The method of killing which is used for halal meat is against our religion. It has been laid down by our tenth Guru".

Although the company responsible for the incident, Initial Catering Services, has already issued an apology and vowed that such a thing would not happen again, doubts remain that such an incident is unlikely to be a one off, since it is relatively simple for confusion to arise.

As Jagtar Singh said: "The problem is that there is still a lot of confusion over the Sikh diet. Sikhs who are baptised are vegan... according to our code of conduct, halal meat is completely out of the question".

"We are less proactive than the Muslims in explaining our religious requirements. When we go out we tend to stick to vegetarian food because it is easier. There needs to be legislation which identifies Sikhs as a distinct ethnic group with specific needs," Singh added.

To address the problem, and to try to make sure such a thing never happens again, a memo has been sent to Kitchen staff in the schools, saying that product codes have been changed and that: "It is essential that all dishes containing halal meat are clearly marked so that children of different faiths have a choice and can opt for vegetarian or fish dishes instead".

The local council has also apologised for the incident and, overall, it is clear that all parties are now more sensitive to the needs of the different communities in their midst.