Illegal colours continue to crop up in European food products with the EU's tracking system highlighting banned Sudan 1 and Para Red contaminants in a range of foods this week, reports Lindsey Partos.
In February this year, Sudan 1 was at the centre of the biggest food recall in the UK's history, when authorities detected this potentially carcinogenic colour 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 who may have been supplied with the contaminated Worcester sauce. The result: over 600 processed food products were pulled from the shelves with recalls running into millions of euros.
Compounding concern, last month a further illegal colour Para Red was identified for the first time ever in the UK: to date over 65 products have been recalled due to contamination by banned food dye.
But last week French authorities notified Europe's rapid alert system , the bloc's tool for exchanging information on measures taken to ensure food safety, on the discovery of Sudan 1, Para Red and the illegal colour toluidin in a spice mixture imported from Russia, via Germany.
In addition, Italy warned fellow EU countries that it had detected unauthorised Sudan 1 and IV in crushed hot chilli imported from India.
At a European level the Commission has come down hard on the UK food industry, warning businesses of their duty to provide safe food supplies, and criticising firms for a lack of testing on stocks.
That the alerts are still flowing into the European network suggests that Europe is still far from ridding its food supply of these illegal colours.
It also underlines the obvious, that at all costs, rigorous testing in the spirit of due diligence is absolutely essential. Both for the health of the nations, and the health of their bank accounts, food firms are under a total obligation to ensure that all ingredient stocks are tested, prior to use.
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.
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).