FSA News Item, 24 February 2005
The Food Standards Agency said today that the vast majority of products contaminated with the illegal dye Sudan I have been removed from sale. This page contains the lists of the products affected, including a new list of 146 products issued today, and latest news from the Agency on the situation.
The Food Standards Agency's latest statement was in response to the deadline given to food companies to meet their legal responsibility to withdraw the affected products from sale. The Agency's new list of 146 products, published today, brings the total number of affected products to 474.
For a listing of the new products, see: Sudan list 24 February 2005
The Agency has contacted the major catering suppliers and they have withdrawn affected products – these have appeared on the lists on this website. In addition, more than 150 smaller catering suppliers who received contaminated products have withdrawn products from their customers. Products will be listed on this website as soon as practical.
Consumers are reminded that the risk is very small, that there is no risk of immediate illness but it is sensible not to eat affected products. No groups, whether young, in hospital, elderly or pregnant are exposed to anything other than a very small risk.
David Statham, Director of Enforcement at the Food Standards Agency, said: ‘This has been an enormous undertaking. Hundreds of products have been affected in thousands of shops. The vast majority of contaminated foods has now been removed and that provides some reassurance to consumers. However, there may be some products remaining both in shops and in the catering sector and we will continue to work with local authorities to remove them as far as is practical and achievable.
‘The risk to health is very small, and it is sensible not to eat these foods, but there can be no doubt that consumers should not have been exposed to these contaminated products. We have worked hard to ensure that food companies meet their responsibilities to consumers. Local authorities will check what actions have been taken. We will also work with them in considering what enforcement action may be appropriate following these investigations.'
Work with local authorities
The Food Standards Agency has this week co-ordinated with local authorities further inspections of companies and factories allegedly involved in the supply of foods contaminated with the illegal dye Sudan I.
Five local authorities, in areas where the key companies in the chain of supply are based, have been central to this investigation. Their food law enforcers have exercised their powers to inspect these companies and examine documentation relating to affected products.
The information will form part of the Agency's wider investigation to establish how this failure in the industry's legal duty to provide safe and fit food happened.
Central to this investigation, the largest ever conducted in the UK , has been action by five local authorities:
Companies and factory premises in Clacton, Essex; Long Sutton, Lincolnshire; Oldham, Lancashire; and Billericay, Essex; have been the subject of inspections and samples have been taken for further analysis.
David Statham, the FSA's Director of Enforcement said: 'This is a major investigation. Local authorities across the country have visited a number of premises to look at records and take samples. Our advice to local authorities is that they will need to consider enforcement action on the basis of the evidence they collect. We will review the position with local authorities when the collection of evidence is complete. That may take some time.'
Companies failing to ensure that food placed on the market is safe and fit for human consumption can face prosecution under the General Food Regulations (no longer under the Food Safety Act). Local authorities, not the Agency, are responsible for taking forward any prosecution.
At Magistrates Court the maximum penalties are a £20,000 fine and six months in jail. At Crown Court the maximum penalties are two years in jail and an unlimited fine.
Sudan I is a dye that should not be added to food and is banned in the UK and across the EU because it can contribute to an increased risk of cancer. At the levels present the risk is likely to be very small but it is sensible to avoid eating any food known to be contaminated. There is no risk of immediate ill health.
The Agency is working with the industry and local authorities to ensure that any remaining affected foods are removed from sale. If you have any of these foods at home you are advised not to eat them and to contact the store you bought them from for a refund.
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.
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 .