British Muslims Sent Pork Products in Coronavirus Care Packages19 Jun 2020
The British Government has been criticised for insensitivity after it emerged that care packages sent to vulnerable families in coronavirus isolation contained pork products. Muslim, Sikh and Jewish communities, all of whom have religious restrictions on meat products, especially pork, were the majority of the recipients of the packages.
Labour MP Imran Hussein said that the packages left many communities forced to pick between eating and staying loyal to their religious beliefs.
Communities were forced to choose between eating and their religious or ethical beliefs
The issue first came to public eye in Bradford where Labour MP, Imran Hussein, was alerted to dozens of unopened tins of meat products appearing outside people’s houses. Local authorities said that 40 meat tins in a day alone were collected. Hussein’s investigation revealed that the products all contained pork products such as cans of beans and sausages and lentil and bacon soup. The people who received them had not raised any complaints out of fear of being seen as ungrateful but still did not want them to be wasted. Hussein inquired with the company that was contracted to distribute food packages, Brakes and Bidfood, to highly vulnerable households. He found out that the boxes were standardised, with no options for dietary or religious restrictions.
The packages also contained items such as coffee, tea, biscuits, cereal, fruit, potatoes, pasta, pasta sauce, canned fish and canned vegetables. However, the meat products made up a significant portion of the weekly deliveries.
When contacted by the Guardian, Bidfood confirmed that its packages are “one box fits all” and there was no vegetarian, halal or kosher alternatives. It added that its role is to pack and deliver the boxes, and inquiries about the contents should go to the government.
“The inclusion of these products is also not just culturally and morally insensitive, forcing some in the most vulnerable positions to choose between compromising religious or other sincerely held beliefs and eating, but yet another display of the structural and institutionalised racism in our society – where the views of minorities are either not considered at all or regarded as not significant enough to warrant intervention,” Hussein said in a letter to the communities secretary, Robert Jenrick.
Bidfood and Brakes were both awarded contracts worth hundreds of millions
The government scheme to deliver food packages was launched late-March, as the coronavirus lockdowns were coming into effect. They were intended to service people who are considered “extremely clinically vulnerable” due to underlying health conditions and cannot rely on friends or family. Bidfood and Brakes, two of the largest food wholesalers in the UK, were awarded a contract worth £104 million each.