Illegal food colour tracked in UK

- Last updated on GMT

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

Warnings over food products entering the EU zone containing the
potentially carcinogenic food colour Sudan 1 continue with the UK's
watchdog recalling fresh batches of bean products.

For the second time in a month, the UK Food Standards Agency has identified 'Epicure Beans in Chilli Sauce' as being contaminated with the illegal dye. In addition, the agency added 'Mr Bean's Three Bean Mexican Chilli' to the hazard warning list.

Believed to cause cancer if consumed in large enough quantities, Sudan I is a forbidden colour under the Colours in Food Regulations 1995. 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 continues to unearth more potentially contaminated batches.

"We have undergone a constant process since July last year - 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​.

Products affected by the latest FSA recall are 'Mr Bean's Three Bean Mexican Chilli', sold in 400g tins, with a 'best before end' date of February 2006, and batch code MBBC 4041 and 'Epicure Beans in Chilli Sauce', sold in 410g tins, with a 'best before end' date of Feb 2007 with the batch code ECB5064.

Petty Wood & Co published the batch code information as a precautionary measure in its Product Recall notice of 12 July 2004. The company is undertaking a trade withdrawal, and it is unlikely that the affected product is still on sale.

In January this year a European Commission clampdown extended the rules on the illegal red chemical dyes to include curry powder - a move that tightened measures and extended the paper trail for ingredients.

Brussels now requires that imports of chilli and chilli products - including curry powder - 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) - 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. Maximising the communication flow between EU members, the nation states are using the EU's Rapid Alert System to alert other states of any Sudan dye discovered in products already on sale in the EU or in consignments rejected at EU borders.

The emergency rules are due for review in January 2005.

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.

In the UK alone, the food industry has recalled for destruction more than 150 products - ranging from pesto sauce to chicken tikka masala - since July 2003 and enforcement of the new measures. A costly procedure for food manufacturers, but one necessary to ensure food safety.

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