Tue, Mar 01, 2005 - Page 7 News List

UK expects more cases of illegal dye in processed food

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

The alert over the illegal dye Sudan 1 in processed foods will spread this week after it became clear that at least 20 of the nearly 200 British companies that had been sent contaminated products had passed them on to other countries in the EU.

The results of random tests for Sudan 1 carried out by local authorities across Britain over the past few months have yet to be collated but are also due to be reported on in the next two weeks.

Trading standards sources said the report would reveal further cases of the adulterant in food.

The Food Standards Agency provided approximately ?800,000 (US$1,538 million) of additional funds last year to local authorities for random sampling of imported foods for contaminants including Sudan 1 because of concerns about goods coming into the UK, but these failed to pick up the adulteration of Crosse and Blackwell sauce.

It was only when a small laboratory in Italy detected Sudan 1 in the product from Premier Foods that the current alert, which has seen nearly 500 products recalled in the UK, was triggered.

Irritation with the UK's handling of the food scare grew among EU partners last week. The commission criticized the UK Food Standards Agency for telling other member states of new information about which products were affected through its Web site, rather than through the system of rapid alert that has been set up to handle food safety crises.

An emergency meeting of Europe's expert contaminants working group in Ireland last Friday was told that other EU countries were still trying to work out how much of their food supply was affected.

The chairman of the Food Standards Agency, Sir John Krebs, on Sunday defended the agency from criticism, saying it was the responsibility of the food industry to check that its products did not include illegal ingredients.

"What this has shown me is that there is a question about our trust in the food industry. What I have taken away from this is the huge complexity of the food chain, the fact that one food product was in so many products from microwave meals to sandwiches," he said.

"It also raises questions about processed food. We have said there are hidden salts in processed food, but people don't know what goes into the food they eat and this is another illustration," he said.

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