Trading Standards officials have indicated that Unbar Rothon and East Anglian Food Ingredients (EAFI) - the two spices suppliers at the centre of the crisis - will escape blame for the massive food recall.
The revelation is likely to heap even more pressure on Premier Foods as suppliers and retailers pursue compensation following the industry’s most costly recall to date.
A Food Standards Agency investigation into the food scare got under way this week with five councils in Lincolnshire and Essex enlisted to help the agency with its enquiries.
So far, companies and factory premises involved in the chain of supply of the contaminated chilli powder have been inspected and samples taken for analysis. However, a spokesman for Essex County Council’s Trading Standards said that Clacton-based EAFI and Billericay-based Unbar Rothon were likely to escape prosecution as their involvement preceded the introduction of mandatory certification and testing of imported chilli powder, which came into force in 2003.
“We have been in contact with the two firms to see what they might be able to do in the future, but do not think they are at fault as in 2002 this was not a banned substance and there was no agreed method for testing,” said the spokesman.
EAFI took delivery of the powder in September 12, 2002, passing it to Unbar Rothon eight days later before five tonnes of the powder was delivered to Premier Foods.