04/04/2005 - Scientific experts at the European Commission will vote thismorning on emergency measures to ensure that tumeric and palm oil arechecked at European entry ports to verify they are clear of sudan 1, theillegal carcinogenic dye, writes Lindsey Partos.
Meeting in Brussels, Europe’s Standing Committee on the Food Chain andAnimal Health (CCFAC) is expected to clear the way to extend controls ofthis harmful red dye that leaked into the UK food chain in February,prompting the country’s largest food recall in history.
If the green light passes this morning, the new measures to tighten upfood security for Europe’s 250 million consumers could be in place withina few weeks.
"Recent events over sudan 1 in the UK led the Commission to look again atthe threat it poses to the food chain," a spokesperson for the Commissiontells FoodNavigator.com.
The move to tighten controls on tumeric and palm oil, in particular, comeafter a series of recent alerts to the Commission that have highlightedsudan 1 contamination in these foodstuffs.
If cleared, the emergency measures will require all imports of the twofoodstuffs to be checked at ports of entry throughout Europe, and willrequire a written certificate that they have been tested, and are clear ofthe banned red dye.
Sudan 1 to IV are classified as carcinogens by the International Agencyfor Research on Cancer and are banned under European Union rules.
The dye came to the attention of the food industry in 2003 when Francealerted member states to its presence in an Indian-sourced chilli powder.Today, the European Commission requires that imports of chilli and chilliproducts - including curry powder – cross the EU border with a certificatethat proves they are free of the harmful chemical dyes.
Palm oil and tumeric are very likely to join the list, and could mean moreproduct recalls for the food industry, already coping with the fall outfrom the discovery of sudan 1 in a Worcester sauce - used as both atabletop sauce and food ingredient - brand made by UK manufacturer PremierFoods, that triggered the recall of over 600 well-know processed foodproducts on the UK supermarket shelves.
Too early to put a true figure on the cost of the recall, that includessales loss, destruction, management time plus the ‘softer’ costs likebrand damage, estimates are rolling at €143 million.
If responsibility stops at Premier Foods, the largest food recall in theUK’s food industry will weigh heavily on funds at the St.Albans-basedcompany.
EU rules on traceability and the resulting paper trail are in place toavoid illegal ingredients from contaminating the European food chain; butdespite this, doses of sudan 1 filtered into the food processing system.
The Commission is taking an unequivocal stance on sudan 1: speakingshortly after the UK’s Food Standards Agency issued the warning aboutsudan 1, Europe’s health commissioner Markos Kyprianou clearly laidresponsibility with the food processors.
"Old stocks of chilli from before June 2003 appear still to be used byfood processors. Certain industrial operators have not faced up to theirresponsibilities and cleaned up their stocks of raw material," hecommented.