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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 October, 2004, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Poison paprika sparks Hungary ban
The Hungarian government has banned the sale of paprika after a poisonous substance was discovered in the stocks of three food distributors.

The ban means Hungary's national dish, goulash, could be off the menu as paprika is a key ingredient.

Health minister Jeno Racz said aflatoxin, produced by a fungus, had been found in imported paprika.

But he said it was unlikely to affect the health of consumers unless they ate more than 500g of paprika in a week.

Hungarians eat a lot of paprika, but it would take them a year to get through that much.

Mr Racz said levels of aflatoxin in some samples were 10 times higher than permitted.

But he said aflatoxin could not survive in the Hungarian climate, and accused some food producers of mixing home-grown with stock imported from areas such as South America.

"This toxin can only be found in paprika coming from the tropics, which indicates that domestic producers illegally mixed imported and domestic products, and misled customers," he said.


Mr Racz said the ban would remain in force until tests can ascertain how much paprika has been affected.

He added that any paprika with an expiry date later than 15 April 2005, was safe.

Hungary exports around 5,000 tonnes of paprika a year but it is not clear whether any of the affected produce had been sent abroad.

More than 40 different varieties are grown in Hungary and its bright red colour and sweet hot taste liven up much of the country's cuisine - from fiery goulash stew to red spicy sausages.

The BBC's Bill Hayton says the ban, which covers not just paprika but food products containing it, could make life in Hungary much more bland.

He says many restaurants only keep a week's supply on their shelves and if the ban is maintained chefs will have to find other recipes for their customers.

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Country profile: Hungary
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