Trade bodies and food industry representatives are to meet tomorrow (25 February) to discuss weaknesses in the global herbs and spices supply chain following the recall of a raft of products contaminated with nut protein.

The workshop will bring together the Food Standards Agency, the British Retail Consortium, the Food and Drink Federation, the Seasoning and Spice Association and food industry chiefs at the FSA’s London HQ.

Attendees will be sharing strategies for managing risks in the supply chain following a batch of Bart Ingredients ground cumin testing positive for almond protein in January, and supplier Santa Maria pulling products including branded and own label meal kits from shelves after they were found to contain almond from a batch of paprika contaminated with almond.

Speaking to The Grocer last week, Professor Chris Elliott - who led a government inquiry following the horsemeat scandal - claims nut contamination could be even more serious than Horsegate. “Although the horsemeat issue was widespread, there was no evidence a single person died or got ill,” he said. “What we are dealing with now are herbs and spices used in a huge number of products being contaminated with potentially dangerous allergens.”

A key area of discussion for tomorrow’s workshop will be what further measures might be needed to strengthen consumer protection across the sector.

“In the light of recent incidents it seems sensible to take a broader look at the herbs and spice chain to identify if there might be areas where the FSA and industry should be paying particular attention,” said FSA chief operating officer Jason Feeney. “It is important consumers know that not only is their food safe but that it is what it says it is. I am delighted that colleagues in industry have given this initiative their whole hearted support and commitment.”

Retailers had been working with the FSA for some time, sharing intelligence and test results with them to address the current issue, said BRC food policy director Andrew Opie. “We fully support the collaborative approach to this event,” he added. “Convening a global supply chain analysis involving all the relevant parties should help us to build a better understanding of current controls to address any weak points. The lessons from this exercise will be used to augment our existing controls.’

Food and Drink Federation Regulatory Science and Health director Barbara Gallani said: “The FDF and the Seasoning and Spice Association have in place a series of fully implemented controls covering all stages of production, processing and distribution. This exercise will provide an opportunity for us to share our in depth knowledge of these global supply chains as well as our experience in managing and controlling known risks.”