Harmful colour found in new food batches

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union, Sudan

Food manufacturers must continue to be on the alert for a red devil
as the list of products containing the potentially carcinogenic,
and illegal, red dye Sudan I is far from tailing off. Now the UK
Food Standards Agency is alerting consumers and trading bodies to
the discovery of the harmful red dye in a new batch of finished
goods available on the supermarket shelves.

Banned under European Union rules last year, Sudan I has since been found in a range of chilli powders, and more than 150 food products including chutneys, relishes and seasonings.

What started as a trickle in July last year - when the European Commission alerted Member States that products contaminated with Sudan I from India had been found in France - is rapidly turning into a river of food product recalls as the FSA unearths more batches that could be potentially contaminated.

"We have undergone a constant process since July - tracing products throughout the chain and building up a picture of where contaminated products could have ended up,"​ a spokesman for the UK's FSA recently told FoodNavigator.com.

So this affair is far from over, and the industry can expect to see some more unwelcome surprises.

"It is impossible to say when this will end - there are lots of contaminated products,"​ added the spokesman.

Surprises that have so far touched the realm of retailers, including Safeway, with a batch of red pesto, Sainsbury, with an Italian Tomato and Mascarpone Stir-in Sauce, and Morrisons, with a batch of chicken tikka massala.

The food agency has asked companies to withdraw and recall contaminated products as soon as they are identified.

"In addition, the FSA is asking all manufacturers who use chilli powder or chilli products as part of the ingredients in their products to ensure that if it was imported from India and supplied to them prior to 30 July 2003 that they must ensure that it has not been contaminated with Sudan I as specified in The Food (Hot Chilli and Hot Chilli Products) (Emergency Control) (England) Regulations 2003,"​ said the FSA in a statement last year.

Sudan I - used for colouring solvents, oils and petrol for example - is an illegal colour under the Colours in Food Regulations 1995. Considered to be a genotoxic carcinogen its presence, at any level, is not permitted in food for any purpose.

Following detection of Sudan 1 red in consignments of chillies exported by certain exporters in Mumbai, India, the European Union mandated that each consignment of hot chilli and chilli products imported into the EU must accompany an analytical report that proves the chilli products are free of Sudan 1.

The move followed a visit by three inspectors from the European Commission's Food and Veterinary Office to the district last year that was sent to check up on systems in place to combat Sudan-1 red contamination in chilli and chilli products, and even aflatoxin contamination in spices.

The batches detected by the FSA last week are, Chenab brand Chilli Powder in 100g packets with a 'best before date' of 19 03 05, and Cherab brand Chilli Powder in 5kg packets with a 'best before date' of 30 04 04. They have since been withdrawn from sale.

According to the Indian Spice board, an estimated 500,000 tonnes of spices and herbs valued at €1.2 billion are traded each year around the globe - of which 46 per cent is supplied by India.

Related topics: Ingredients

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