Food labs push out Para Red tests

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Para red, Sudan i

Reacting rapidly to the discovery of the banned colour Para Red in
processed foods, UK food laboratory RSSL has a new method to help
food makers detect this potential carcinogen, reports Lindsey

Identified for the first time in the UK food chain earlier this month, the discovery of Para Red has already propelled the withdrawal of nearly 50 foods from the shelves.

Illegal under the 1995 Colours in Food Regulations, the chemical dye paranitraniline red is a genotoxic carcinogen chemically similar to Sudan 1, the banned red colour at the heart of the UK's biggest food recall earlier this year.

Nervous that a Sudan 'repetition' could be on the way, food makers have raced to contact the food laboratories to establish the availability and efficacy of tests, anxious to minimise risk.

"In terms of due diligence, it is appropriate for a food manufacturer or ingredients company to test each batch of raw ingredients, such as spices or palm oil, before using in compound products,"​ says Ian Gatsby at UK testing laboratory RSSL.

Unknown as a hazard in the UK food chain up until only recently, RSSL has only just validated a method to detect Para Red in the last week or so. Prior to this, food makers, government and enforcement agencies were unaware of the hazard.

RSSL charges from £100 (€146) a sample for the Para Red test, using two different methods: HPLC (High Performance Liquid Chromatography) and Liquid Chromatography linked to mass spectrometry.

The former method detects to one part per million, whereas the latter, more expensive, test can detect to 100 parts per billion.

Now that new tests to detect the previously undetectable Para Red are popping up all around the country, there is the distinct possibility that product recalls will multiply.

Eager to avoid a repetition of the Sudan 1 debacle that cost millions of euros, food makers should beat a path to the testing labs.

Gatsby tells that industry reaction to Para Red has been more immediate than initial feedback to Sudan 1.

"People are definitely keen to avoid any repetition of Sudan,"​ he confirms.

Since Sudan, RSSL has been investigating a range of colour contaminants, among them Para Red, Sudan 7b, Orange II and Orange G, that may pose a risk.

Undeniably the pressure is on food makers to test. All imports into the UK need a certificate to show they are free of contamination. But failure by industry and government to identify the Para Red hazard up until just two weeks ago means this illegal colour will never have come up on the 'radar screen' of tests.

Now new tests are available to pick up on any Para Red contamination. So even with certificates in hand, food ingredients firms and food manufacturers must invest in batch testing. They simply can not afford to do otherwise.

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