The UK food watchdog has extended the already massive recall of food products contaminated by the harmful, and illegal, red food dye sudan 1: but the tailing off of figures suggests the recall may have reached its peak, reports Lindsey Partos.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said yesterday that another 43 products had been added to the list for recall.
Additional items include ready-made meals from UK retailers Morrisons, Safeway and Iceland, as well as food brand firm Birds Eye.
Bringing the overall total to 580, the latest batch of recalls featured a broad range of processed foods, from caesar dressing, pasta sauce and spicy pepperoni bake, to chicken hotpot and steak pie.
Sudan 1 to IV are classified as carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and are banned under European Union rules.
But last month the discovery of sudan 1 in a consignment of Crosse and Blackwell Worcester sauce - used as both a tabletop sauce and food ingredient - made by UK manufacturer Premier Foods triggered a mass recall in the UK food chain.
While too early to say exactly how much the recall will have cost the country's food industry, the figure is certain to run into double digit millions.
Sudan 1 came to the attention of the food industry in 2003 when France alerted member states to its presence in an Indian-sourced chilli powder. Today, the European Commission requires that imports of chilli and chilli products - including curry powder - cross the EU border with a certificate that proves they are free of the harmful chemical dyes.
Prior to the Worcester sauce linked recalls, in the UK alone the food industry had recalled more than 280 food products for destruction- ranging from pesto sauce to chicken tikka masala - since July 2003 and enforcement of the European new measures.
Looking into how the contamination leaked into the food chain, Premier Foods has said that it had certificates from its suppliers that guaranteed the chilli used was free of sudan 1.
If this is the case, another possibility could explain the contamination: that the stocks used in these latest formulations pre-date the EU ban.
Premier Foods recently confirmed to FoodNavigator.com that the stocks were brought in before July 2003.
In a bid to guide the food industry through the labyrinth of new rules on traceability (regulation (EC) 178/2002 ) enforced in January this year, a group of scientists under the aegis of the Commission have created a document to communicate how they should be implemented.
The general food law requirements are: traceability of food and feed products; responsibility of operators; withdrawal of unsafe food or feed from the market and notification to competent authorities.