>>Consumers want to know how sudan 1 found its way into the chain


There may be some in our industry who will want to claim that this week’s Sudan 1 crisis has been blown out of all proportion. After all, they will say, nobody is going to drop dead after eating a product contaminated with the banned colourant. In addition, they may well be tempted to say that we should take comfort from the fact that the FSA and the industry clearly have the systems in place to deal with these sorts of regrettable incidents.
I would strongly argue against any such complacency. Sure, it is impressive that the industry’s testing, traceability and recall systems seem to have worked extraordinarily well (despite some of the negative coverage this week).
But these systems perform the same function as the ambulance at the foot of Beachy Head. How so? Well, once the lovers have leapt over the edge of the cliff, all that the ambulance staff can do is pick up the pieces.
So it is with this week’s product recalls - with retailers and food suppliers picking up the pieces. And the fact they have been left with such a huge mess to clear up is the most worrying aspect of the Sudan 1 tale of woe.
Put simply: the industry should never have been put in the position where it had to deploy its ambulances.
The investigations and recriminations will clearly rumble on for some time, but even at this early stage, it is nothing short of scandalous that this banned substance has found its way into the food chain for the second time in just over a year.
Given that disturbing fact, it is absolutely right that the industry is facing some pretty awkward questions about its practices and processes. We accept nobody is going to die as a result of this fiasco. But what if the contaminant had been more toxic? The events of the past week or so are hardly reassuring for consumers, are they?
I don’t know many people who have applauded the fact that products were recalled quickly and efficiently when Sudan 1 was discovered. But I have met plenty of folk who have wanted to know how the stuff got into their food in the first place and have asked whether such a problem could happen with other, rather more nasty, ingredients. If nothing else, let’s hope this crisis will make everyone redouble their efforts to ensure the industry never gets as close as this to leaping off the proverbial cliff again. Because next time the ambulances may not be enough.
no room for complacency