Saturday, February 19, 2005

Cancer Warning over dye in Food

Local health officials check imports

An urgent warning was issued by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in UK after a potentially cancer-causing dye was discovered in more than 350 widely-eaten food products.

Pepin Delgado of the Environmental Health Agency said his officials are checking if items imported locally are affected and would withdraw these from sale. On Thursday Morrisons withdrew all items that might be affected from their stores including in Gibraltar (Safeways).

The dye, known as Sudan 1, got into a batch of chilli powder which was then used in a large consignment of Crosse and Blackwell Worcester Sauce made by Premier Foods. The sauce was then added as an ingredient to at least 359 products from supermarkets and top food brands such as Unilever. The FSA is urging householders with products not to eat them.

Sudan 1 is a red dye used for colouring solvents, oils waxes, petrol and shoe polish.
It is illegal to add the dye to food in the UK and rest of the EU.

Dr Jon Bell, chief executive of the FSA, said:

Sudan 1 could contribute to an increased risk of cancer. However, at the levels present the risk is likely to be very small but it is sensible to avoid eating any more. There is no risk of immediate ill health. The agency is working with the industry to ensure that any remaining affected products are speedily removed.

Because of the widespread use of this Worcester sauce to flavour other foods, we may find further affected products. We will continue to take action to remove these and minimise the risk to consumers.

The list of products concerned includes 68 own-label lines from Asda, 55 from Waitrose, 45 from Morrisons, 42 from Sainsbury’s, 39 from Tesco, 26 from Somerfield, 14 from Iceland and 15 from Marks and Spencer.

Many of the products are ready-made meals such as shepherd’s pie, pasta bake, cottage pie, chicken wings, sausage casserole, pizza, steak and kidney pie and chilli con carne.

There are also a number of products made by well-known UK food companies. Three flavours of Unlever’s top-selling Pot Noodle brand are affected: Beef and Tomato, ‘The Sizzler’ Bacon Flavour and Hot Dog and Ketchup Flavour. All have a best before date of November 2005. The list includes seven products from Heinz: Weightwatchers Shepherd’s Pie, Weightwatchers Beef Hot Pot, Weightwatchers Chicken in BBQ Sauce, two Heinz Shepherd’s Pie lines and two Heinz Lamb Hot Pots. It even extends to a low-fat Caesar dressing made for burger chain McDonald’s.

The full list of products is available on the Food Standard Agency’s website. However, the Agency said more items may be added if it received updated information.

Since July 2003, all chilli powder imported to the UK has to be certified free of Sudan 1. The batch concerned is thought to have arrived in the country before that time. An FSA spokeswoman said Premier Foods obtained the chilli powder from Essex-based spice and herb specialist Unbar Rothon which in turned received it from East Anglian Food Ingredients, also in Essex. Investigations are continuing into how the chilli powder was contaminated with Sudan 1 dye in the first place and where it originated.

Premier Foods, based in St Albans, Hertfordshire, owns a number of well-known brands. The alert list includes Crosse and Blackwell Worcester Sauce and Lloyd Grossman Sweet and Sour Sauce (370g and 450g jars). Premier also makes products on behalf of supermarkets chains. Those on the list are: Aldi Supreme Vegetable Soup, Netto Farmer’s Fayre Vegetable soup and Morrisons Worcester Sauce.

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