The crisis brought about by the discovery of illegal food dyes and the UK’s subsequent biggest-ever food recall appears to have passed, as panic testing for contaminants tailed off in the past month.
One of the UK’s main laboratories for the testing of chemicals in food, Campden & Chorleywood Food Research Association, said the easing of the situation was due to the publication of new guidance from the Food Standards Agency. This specifies limits of detection for dyes such as Para Red and Sudan 1.
In May, the FSA formally recommended that the limit should be 0.5-1.0mg/kg, or
between 0.5-1 parts per million. Only products with higher amounts now have to be withdrawn (The Grocer, May 28).
Nick Bird, section manager of the CCFRA’s chromatography department, this week told The Grocer that demands for testing had gone “very quiet”.
The lab, he said, was now performing fewer tests in a week than it had been doing in one day at the height of the crisis. More than 500 tests were carried out in the days following the discovery of Para Red in foods on sale in Britain.
“The FSA has slowed things down a lot,” said Bird. “A good 99% of the tests that we’ve done [for Para Red and Sudan 1] in the last few months have been below the level of detection the authority has set.”
However, he warned that this did not necessarily signal the end of the dye contamination. “You never know with food colours as there are always different ones coming up,” said Bird.
In mainland Europe, the colouring scare continues after Hungarian and German authorities notified Europe’s rapid alert system last week that the illegal dyes Sudan 1 and 4 had been found in a range of foods on sale, including spice mixes for hamburgers and sausages.
Meanwhile, 54 companies have signed up to Tesco’s list of accredited spice suppliers. The deadline for achieving a listing on its database passed on June 17, after which Tesco said that any company not on it would no longer be recognised as a supplier.
However, it has since relaxed its stance, telling suppliers that it will take each late application on a case-by-case basis.
Rachel Barnes