Sudan 1: banned food products, already withdrawn, appear again on shelves

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Sudan iv, Sudan i, Sudan

Weeks and weeks after the UK's food agency issues official warning
about contaminated Worcester sauce, alarm bells ring as two
prepared foods containing the illegal ingredient, and previously
withdrawn from sale, turn up on the supermarket shelves.

The discovery raises questions as to how products in the supply chain, already flagged up as contaminated with banned colour Sudan 1 and actually removed from sale, could have hit the market again.

UK retailer Spar informed the Food Standards Agency that they had been re-supplied with batches of two affected products, their own brands Spar frozen spaghetti bolognese and Spar frozen shepherds pie.

The products were produced using Worcester sauce contaminated with Sudan I.

As to exactly how the error occurred, Spar informed the FSA of a mistake in the distribution chain, with the 'accidental redestribution' of contaminated products to their depots, the FSA tells

According to Spar, 442 of the contaminated shepherd's pie products have been sold, and 344 of the spaghetti bolognaise brand.

The contaminated Worcester sauce was recently at the heart of the UK's largest food recall in history, sparked off in February when the potentially carcinogenic red colour Sudan 1 was detected in chilli powder used in a batch of Worcester sauce supplied by St.Albans-based firm Premier Foods.

Supplying both retail and industrial ingredient markets, Premier Foods identified 340 customers from their database who may have been supplied with the contaminated Worcester sauce.

That the chilli powder slipped into the Worcester sauce unnoticed suggests a gap in testing, somewhere in the supply chain. Although when the alert was initially sounded in February, Premier said it had received a certificate from its suppliers that guaranteed the chilli it used was free of Sudan 1.

The European Commission first notified exporting countries of chilli, notably India, as far back as June 2003 that consignments of hot chilli and hot chilli products imported into the EU for human consumption, should be accompanied by an analytical report demonstrating the consignment was free of Sudan I.

The EU has since expanded the scope of notification to cover Sudan II, Sudan III and Scarlet Red (Sudan IV).

But that Sudan 1 continues turn up in the food chain certainly implies that tests are not being applied. This is a risk that no player in the supply chain can afford to take. Estimates for the cost of the February Sudan recall are already in excess of €200 million: no one company, or group of firms, can afford to repeat this incident.

A multitude of research laboratories across Europe offer sample testing services, for an increasing range of colour contaminants in foods. In term of due diligence food makers and ingredients firms are advised to test each batch of raw ingredients, such as spices or palm oil, before using in compound products.

Related topics: Policy, Food labelling

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