Cancer dye scare escalates

Last updated at 13:00 04 April 2005

New Europe-wide food import checks were ordered today amid a fresh scare over the illegal cancer-causing dye Sudan 1.

The dye was detected in hundreds of food products in the UK in February and traced to a rogue batch of imported chilli.

Now the European Commission has ordered that palm oil and curcuma spice be added to the list of products which must be certified as safe before import into the European Union.

Europe's Commissioner for health and consumer protection Markos Kyprianou, said: "The Commission has had strong safeguards in place against the danger of carcinogens such as Sudan dyes for some years now and has kept these under continuous review.

"One of the lessons we have learned from the recent Sudan 1 contamination is that we need to extend controls for Sudan to products other than chilli to ensure the highest possible levels of protection for European consumers.

"I would urge all food operators and member state authorities to ensure products containing these dyes do not enter the EU market - this is their responsibility."

New controls

The latest move means new controls at all EU ports of entry to certify imported food products are free of all Sudan dyes.

And, following a meeting in Brussels this morning, the Commission issued a seven-point leaflet of the obligations on food safety the industry must meet.

Mr Kyprianou said: "The leaflet we are publishing for the food industry provides them with an at-a-glance reminder of their obligations.

"It will also be useful for consumers to know what they can expect from food operators. Food operators cannot ignore their responsibilities."

Controls carried out in EU countries first uncovered concerns that significant consignments of palm oil and curcuma had been found to be contaminated with Sudan dyes.

Palm oil is widely used for frying food and as an ingredient in biscuits and crisps.

Curcuma is a popular spice used as flavouring in sauces and curries.

In the first scare in February nearly 600 products available in Britain had to be recalled after Sudan 1 was found in a batch of Worcester sauce.

The new seven-point leaflet makes clear that the food industry is responsible not only for the safety of food on the market, but also for tracing consignments of food and ensuring the immediate withdrawal of any products believed to be unsafe.