Paper trail extended for UK food colour recall

Related tags Food European union Sudan

One single ingredient continues to create havoc in the UK's food
market as the country's food safety agency this week extends the
recall roll call for food products potentially contaminated by the
harmful red colour sudan 1.

Provoking a flow of articles in the UK consumer and business press, last week the Food Standards Agency (FSA) announced it had identified the carcinogenic substance sudan 1 in Worcester sauce, supplied by Premier Foods.

Since Friday the UK's food watchdog has pulled over 400 well-known processed food products from the shelves, marking the largest recall in its short history.

Yesterday, Tesco's chicken and vegetable casserole, Sainsburys pork sausages and McDonald's Dijon mustard mayonnaise joined the updated list of recalls from the FSA that gets longer each day.

Sudan 1 first came to the attention of European authorities in 2003 when France alerted member states to chilli products contaminated with Sudan I from India.

Because of this, up until last week, the FSA had already destroyed over 260 food products due to contamination fears over a period of 18 months.

And in January 2004 a European Commission clampdown extended the rules on sudan 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 are also 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.

New food safety rules that came into force last month across Europe will also facilitate the communication flow.

Slotting into the European framework regulation EC/178/2002 laid down in January 2002, the new rules (Articles 14, 16, 18, 19 of the regulation) set out general provisions for imposing tougher food codes for the traceability of food and feed.

While food firms have always been under the legal duty to ensure that all food in the chain is safe, the new rules now formally require they notify the local authorities should a food or feed withdrawal from the market arise.

Reflecting the new traceability rules the FSA said in January it had set up a rapid access channel for food and feed businesses, to signal the food agency about any new product withdrawals from the market.

The number of food-linked alerts in the European Union leapt by over 40 per cent in 2003 on the previous year, with the majority sourced in the 'old' member states. Clearly demonstrated by the sudan 'debacle' currently hitting the UK, food makers operating in today's climate have no choice but to implement rigorous food traceability systems into their daily costs.

But putting a price on food safety is 'frankly impossible' because it is totally integrated, says Francois Perroud, a spokesperson for number one food maker Nestle.

At every level quality systems are in place to protect the firm's reputation - including the day to day finely-tuned tracking in its 500 factories, he recently told

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