The most important of these dyes is Para Red, which was originally detected in the Netherlands as a result of a companys own check in April 2005.
Since then, 42 RASFF notifications concerning the detection of this dye in chilli, chilli powder and products containing chilli were received in 2005.
In fact, no decrease has been observed in the number of notifications made by Member States as regards the adulteration of spices and other food products by illegal compounds.
Furthermore, the EC has also suggested that the figures indicate that fraud involving several different dyes and colours is taking place.
These findings are worrying. But the fact that these illegal dyes are being discovered at least suggests that the traceability systems put in place are working.
Indeed, the Sudan dye issue has focused a great deal of attention on the food industry's ability to protect the supply chain. These dyes, which are typically used for colouring solvents, oils, waxes, petrol, and shoe and floor polishes, are illegal in food products on account of the body of scientific evidence suggesting they have carcinogenic properties.
Since July 2003, cargoes of dried and crushed or ground chilli and curry powders coming into any EU Member State have to be accompanied by a certificate showing they have been tested and found to be free of Sudan I. Any consignment that does not have a certificate must be detained for sampling and analysis.
Random sampling must also be undertaken both at ports and by local authorities. The FSA and local authorities randomly sample more than 1000 consignments a year of imported chilli products. All consignments found to contain Sudan I to IV must be destroyed.
Some 85 per cent of the positive findings for Para Red were done in Germany and the United Kingdom. As Germany is a key player for the import of spices in the EU it has logically notified many positive cases and is also identified as the most frequent origin of the contaminated products (when the exact origin could not be determined).
In addition to developing testing capabilities for Sudan dyes, both Germany and the UK have also developed analytical tests for Para Red.
Since then, some other Member States, including France and Belgium, have also notified detection of this dye. As regards the origin of the contaminated products, it should be noted that in one third of the notifications on Para Red, spices originated from the Russian Federation or a former Soviet Republic.
In many other cases, the exact origin was not determined because of the lack of traceability in the spices market. In comparison, the most frequent origin mentioned for Sudan dyes notifications was India.
For Sudan I and Para-Red, tests have revealed that in more than half of the cases of fraudulent use of these dyes, a mix of two or more different dyes had been used. The most common mix found in spices is Sudan I associated with Sudan IV.
The continued discovery of Sudan red shows how vital it is for the food industry to ensure that effective traceability systems are in place. Company-wounding costs from contamination, or even possible contamination, include sales loss, destruction, management time, plus the softer' costs like brand damage, which can have a longer-lasting impact.
The issue has also made consumers less trustful of food companies, and far more aware of product recalls and investigations.