60 more foods on scare list

Staff and agencies
Monday February 21, 2005

Sixty new food items were today added to the list of products that are being recalled because they are contaminated with a potentially cancer-causing dye.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said the newly listed food items - including sausages, seasonings, ready meals and pizzas - pushed the register of contaminated products to over 400 items.

The food watchdog published a list on Friday of 359 products it said were contaminated with the Sudan 1 dye, which is supposed to be used for colouring only in non-food products such as shoe polish and wax. The red dye's detection in a wide variety of foods has prompted arguably the worst health scare since the BSE crisis, with millions of packets of food being recalled.

The agency was prompted to make an unprecedented alert after the discovery of Sudan 1 in a batch of chilli powder used to make a large consignment of Crosse and Blackwell Worcester sauce. That sauce, in turn, was added as an ingredient in a host of other products.

In an update today on the FSA website, which has a full list of the contaminated products, the food watchdog said: "Sudan 1 can contribute to an increased risk of cancer but at the levels present the risk is likely to be very small ... there is no risk of immediate ill health but it is sensible to avoid eating any more."

The recall of products is thought to be the biggest of its kind in British retail history and the FSA said today that more than 300 food companies - including supermarket chains such as Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Waitrose - had been affected.

The updated list includes two types of sausages from Morrisons, beef and tomato flavoured Pot Noodle, soups, a ready-made hot pot from Waitrose, a Weight Watchers Shepherds Pie and Worcester sauce flavoured crisps from Walkers. There are also a number of products supplied by the food company McCormick, including several of its Schwartz brand of seasonings.

In addition, there are products made for Sainsbury's and dressings for fast food chain McDonald's. Three products sold under the Aunt Bessie brand are on the list, along with four pizzas from Waitrose and a Chicago Town brand pizza made by Canterbury Foods.

The FSA chief executive Jon Bell warned today that further products may have to be withdrawn over the coming days and denied the FSA had been slow to alert the public. Speaking today on BBC Radio 4's The World At One, Mr Bell said: "I think there is a very strong chance that we will be having to make further announcements."

He added: "The information is still coming in ... until last thing on Thursday, we did not have anything like a reasonable list to put out."

The FSA was first told there was a problem by Premier Foods, makers of Crosse and Blackwell Worcester sauce, on February 7. The Hertfordshire-based company had been informed of the contamination after tests conducted in Italy. It was not until February 18 - 11 days later - that the alert was issued, however.

Conservative health spokesman Chris Grayling complained that the FSA had been too slow. Mr Grayling told The World At One: "My understanding is that some of the supermarket chains started to take products off the shelf several days ago before the FSA made its first announcement. They clearly knew something was wrong."

Kevin Hawkins, director general of the British Retail Consortium, told LBC radio: "Some legitimate questions have been raised about why it was that the Food Standards Agency became aware of the problem on February 7 and yet this time last week none of the big food retailers were aware of it and one would like to know what went on to cause that delay."

The FSA said if customers had concerns they should contact suppliers or retailers. In recent years the FSA has issued a series of warnings about Sudan 1 and demanded the removal of a number of items, including chutneys, pickles and pasta sauce.

All chilli powder imported to the UK since July 2003 has to be certified as free from Sudan 1. The FSA and local authorities randomly test more than 1,000 consignments of imported chilli powder a year.

The rogue batch used by Premier Foods came into the country in 2002 - before the rules came into force.

Premier is one of the UK's leading food companies and makes brands such as Typhoo, Cadbury Drinking Chocolate, Branston Pickle and Hartley's jam.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?