FSA News Item, 18 February 2005
The Food Standards Agency is today advising people not to eat foods that have been inadvertently contaminated with an illegal dye, Sudan I. This dye was in a batch of chilli powder used by Premier Foods to manufacture a Worcester sauce, which was then used as an ingredient in a wide range of products.
The Agency is working with the industry and local authorities to ensure that any remaining affected foods are removed from sale.
A list of affected foods is provided at www.food.gov.uk/sudanlist and will be updated as further information becomes available. If people have any of these foods at home they are advised not to eat them and to contact the store they bought them from for a refund.
[Note - For a copy of the list issued on 18 February available on this site, see Sudan I Products List 18 February 2005]
Food Standards Agency Chief Executive Dr Jon Bell said: ' Sudan I could contribute to an increased risk of cancer. However, at the levels present the risk is likely to be very small but it is sensible to avoid eating any more. There is no risk of immediate ill health. The Agency is working with the industry to ensure that any remaining affected products are speedily removed. Because of the widespread use of this Worcester sauce to flavour other foods, we may find further affected products. We will continue to take action to remove these and minimise the risk to consumers.'
The foods, including soups, sauces and ready meals, have been distributed widely. At least 350 food products are currently known to be affected.
The companies whose products are listed are co-operating with the Agency to ensure the products are withdrawn.
Sudan I is a dye that should not be added to food and is banned in the UK and across the EU. Since July 2003 all chilli powder imported into the UK has to be certified free of Sudan I.
The FSA and local authorities randomly sample more than 1,000 consignments a year of imported chilli products.
However, this batch predates this sampling programme and was uncovered after sampling of Worcester sauce produced by Premier Foods and exported to Italy .
Your questions answered
What is Sudan I?
Sudan I is a red dye that is used for colouring solvents, oils, waxes, petrol, and shoe and floor polishes. It is not allowed to be added to food in the UK and the rest of the EU. However, inadvertent contamination of some food products has been uncovered.
What is being done to tackle the problem?
The Agency is working with the food industry and local authorities to make sure that all the affected products are removed from the shelves and is tracing any foods that may be contaminated.
What is the health risk of Sudan I?
Sudan I could contribute to an increased risk of cancer and it is not possible to identify a safe level or to quantify the risk. However, at the levels present in these food products the risk is likely to be very small
If I have eaten an affected product, has my health been damaged?
There is no risk of immediate illness. If you have eaten these products the risk is likely to be very small, and not eating them any more is a sensible thing to do.
Being exposed to a substance that could contribute to the development of cancer does not necessarily mean that you will develop cancer. There are many causes of cancer, including lifestyle and environment.
If the risk is very small why remove the foods?
Sudan I is thought to contribute to cancer, and consumers should not be exposed to it unnecessarily. Experts advise that exposure should be as low as practical. It is also illegal in foods.
Could I have some products at home that contain Sudan I?
A list of known affected products can be found at the link below. It will be regularly updated. If people have any at home they are advised not to eat them and to contact the store where they bought them for a refund.
Could restaurant meals or takeaways be affected?
Some restaurants and takeaways have been using products containing Sudan I. These products are being withdrawn.
What measures are in place to stop this happening again?
All dried and crushed or ground chilli coming into any EU Member State must 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 is detained for sampling and analysis. Random sampling is also undertaken both at ports and by local authorities. All consignments found to contain Sudan I must be destroyed.