Sudan 1: is best practice enough to retain consumer confidence?

Related tags Food industry Consumer protection Food

In addition to evident best practice in food safety across the food
chain, the food industry needs to establish better channels of
communication to tackle food recalls and avoid a blow to consumer
confidence, conclude the authors of a fresh survey in the UK
conducted during the sudan 1 food scare,reports Lindsey

One in three consumers feels less confident about food safety standards in the UK after the recall of over 400 well-known processed foods following the detection of the harmful, and illegal, red dye sudan 1 two weeks ago, finds a survey on 1000 consumers organised by UK consultancy Razor.

Further, according to the survey, in the past couple of weeks a slice of independent retailers and stockists were actually brought up to date about the growing list of products for recall through the media, despite considerable efforts from the industry, and the UK's government bodies.

"Along the supply chain - and particularly retailers - the food industry needs to work out their best possible channels of communications to avoid multiples still stocking recalled products,"​ says Chris Woodcock, a director at Razor.

Woodcock believes that trade associations together with other significant stakeholders should work towards improving communication between operational and commercial functions: "to draw elements together in an overall, proactive, scheme of risk management."

Illegal under European community legislation, Sudan 1 hit the headlines in the UK after the country's food watchdog, the Food Standards Agency, detected the illegal dye in chilli powder used by food company Premier Foods as an ingredient in Worcester sauce.

Sudan 1 is a genotoxic carcinogen, which means it can permanently alter DNA.

The detection sparked off what is believed to be the biggest food recall in the UK's food history; as the industry's traceability structure identified the Worcester sauce, used as an ingredient, in over 480 processed foods.

In contrast to findings from the latest UK survey, speaking to last week, the UK's food industry body, the Food and Drink Federation, asserted the crucial role communication had played in pushing the pace of the recall.

"The speed at which this ingredient has been traced shows the efficiency of the system,"​said the spokesperson.

But according to Chris Woodcock: "No matter how swiftly they act or how responsibly they behave, retailers, food processors and ingredients manufacturers must face the harsh reality that legal compliance is no longer sufficient.

Even the FSA - and its well-intentioned and highly professional product recall team - have not escaped scrutiny and censure."

Despite a rapid recall, figures from the Razor survey do certainly bear out a need for the food industry to re-boot consumer confidence in the food chain, suggesting that regulatory compliance will not be enough.

Asked if the sudan 1 recall would influence future shopping decisions, one in three participants (34 per cent) in the Razor survey said they would expect to buy less​ ready meals and pre-packaged foods.

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