Europe on the alert for carcinogenic colours

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Sudan, European union, Sudan iv, Sudan i

Europe's food industry faces increased recalls and further costs as
a Commission clampdown yesterday extended rules on illegal
carcinogenic red chemical dyes to include curry powder.

An emergency measure declared by Brussels yesterday, and effective immediately, extends the paper trail for ingredients, requiring that imports of chilli and chilli products - including curry powder - can only cross the EU border with proof they are free of the illegal chemical dyes -Sudan I, Sudan II, Sudan III or Scarlet Red (Sudan IV).

This latest move extends the tighter measures already in place since June 2003 when France initally alerted the European Commission to traces of Sudan 1 found in chilli and chilli powder.

That the rules now include curry powder, found extensively in European food products, means more paperwork and potentially a surge in product recalls for the food industry.

"The Commission decision yesterday was taken in light of recent findings relating to Sudan 11,111 and Scarlet red,"​ a Commission spokesperson told FoodNavigator.com​.

The issue started in May 2003 with the discovery of the illegal Sudan 1 in chilli and chilli products, since then, via feedback through Europe's Rapid Alert System, the Commission has identified more related substances, added the spokesperson.

On Wednesday we reported​ that in the UK alone the food industry has recalled for destruction more than 130 products - ranging from pesto sauce to chicken tikka masala - from the supermarket shelves since July 2003 and enforcement of the new measures.

With yesterday's Commission decision, testing procedures have once again moved up a gear for food manufacturers.

"While these are likely to be costly, food safety remains our number one priority,"​a spokesperson for the UK's food industry body, the Food and Drink Federation, told FoodNavigator.com​.

From now on, chilli and chilli products including curry powder can only be imported into the EU if they are accompanied by an analytical report which shows that they do not contain Sudan I, Sudan II, Sudan III or Scarlet Red (Sudan IV) - classified as carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Random checks will also be carried out on chilli and curry products already on the market, said the Commission yesterday. Maximising the communication flow between EU Member States, Brussels added that if any Sudan dye is discovered in products already on sale in the EU or in consignments rejected at EU borders, the Member States will continue to use the Rapid Alert System food and feed.

Due for review in January 2005, the emergency rules could well be extended if new findings come to light.

Related topics: Policy, Food Safety & Quality

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