Millions of jars of pasta sauce are being pulled from supermarket shelves in a growing health scare.

A banned food dye, found in chilli powder imported from India, was discovered in some small brands last month, but the contamination is now wider than suspected. Sauces from food giants Unilever and Cirio and own label offerings from Sainsbury and Safeway are among those caught up in the scare.

Unilever was forced to launch an expensive recall advertising campaign in the national press this week after it was feared that Bertolli Pesto Rosso may contain Sudan 1, a red dye usually used for colouring solvents, oils, waxes, petrol and shoe and floor polishes.

Sainsbury and Safeway embarked on a similar campaign after seven own label products were suspected of contamination.

One supermarket buyer said: “This is a minor disaster. At first we didn’t think the problem was too bad but it seems to be escalating.”

The Food Standards Agency has posted a list of all the affected products on its website.