A row between the industry and the Food Standards Agency has been averted after the FSA clarified limits for detection for illegal food dyes such as Sudan 1 and Para Red.
The FSA has issued new guidance for testing following a meeting in Brussels. It is recommending the method for detecting illegal dyes should be based on High Performance Liquid Chromatography and the limit of detection will be 0.5-1.0mg/kg. Any products with higher amounts must be withdrawn from the market.
According to UK authorities, Premier Foods’ Worcester sauce, which triggered the latest Sudan 1 scare, contained 3mg/kg (three parts per million). The new level is the first advice received by the food industry, which has been angered at the agency’s lack of
direction. “It is the guidance that we have been seeking,” said Simon Cripps, executive chairman of the Seasoning and Spice Association.
Brussels has also called for harmonisation of testing methods across Europe. British scientists are leading a group from four countries working to improve analysis. The European Food Safety Authority is to carry out a risk assessment on toxicological data for dyes.
The new spirit of co-operation between the industry and FSA has been further enhanced by the news that the FSA is setting up a taskforce to strengthen existing controls on dyes. Industry representatives are invited to join the taskforce, which reports in the autumn.
Meanwhile, the full facts behind the 2003 Sudan 1 scandal may not be fully known until almost the end of next year. The FSA intends to carry out an independent review of the crisis totally separate from inquiries into this year’s contamination.
Its plans are being delayed by the possibility of court action against those involved in the 2003 alert, which began over contaminated chilli powder imported from India. The FSA wants to look in more detail at the incident. However, in a written statement to the Commons, public health minister Caroline Flint said the inquiry could not take place until local authority investigations into some of the key players involved were completed, along with any resulting court cases.
Meanwhile, Premier Foods is continuing to play down this year’s outbreak.
It said in an annual general meeting statement: “Our evaluation of the maximum quantum of the exposure is supported by the claims experience we have seen to date and our assessment of the insurance position remains unchanged. The group continues to believe it has no material financial exposure.”
Siân Harrington