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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 February, 2005, 09:52 GMT
Food dye firm in previous scare
Sudan I
The company was found to have had Sudan I in its products in 2003.
One of the firms at the centre of the contamination of food with an illegal cancer-causing dye has been involved in a similar scare before, officials say.

The Food Standards Agency said East Anglian Food Ingredients, Essex, had Sudan I in its products in 2003.

BBC News has seen a list of nearly 200 organisations supplied with food which may have been contaminated.

The food industry has until Thursday to ensure more than 400 recalled products have been removed from shop shelves.

Each of the 200 organisations, including several caterers for schools, was a customer supplied with products by Premier Foods using a batch of Crosse and Blackwell Worcester Sauce found to contain Sudan I.

The list includes two of the country's largest catering companies supplying food to schools, hospitals, pubs and restaurants.

There are also companies in Canada, America and France.

The company were not at fault in 2003 as it would not have known this was something to look out for
Food Standards Agency spokesman

100m cost

The recall of products is the biggest in British history, involving soups, sauces and ready-meals, and is estimated to be costing 100m.

A further list of products was added to the recalled list on Tuesday, although there was some confusion over the exact number.

Ten processed products were originally named, then reportedly later revised to seven after questions were raised, although a list of eight products remains published on the FSA website.

Sudan I has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals - but the risk to consumers is extremely small.

EAFI sold the Indian chilli powder to Essex-based spice and herb specialist Unbar Rothon, which in turn sold it to Premier Foods before it was made into Worcester sauce and used in a range of food products.

In June 2003, EAFI was among a number of companies involved in the supply of chilli powder which was found to contain Sudan I by tests in France.

Food was recalled from across Europe but it involved fewer products than this year's scare. The find led to a change in food safety regulations.

All dried and crushed or ground chilli coming into Europe must be accompanied by a certificate showing it has been tested and found to be free of Sudan I.

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'No blame'

An FSA spokesman said: "The company was not at fault in 2003 as it would not have known this was something to look out for.

"No Sudan I had ever been found in the EU before."

He pointed out EAFI was not being blamed for the current scare either.

EAFI said it had no information about the source of the contamination, but confirmed it had supplied chilli powder to Unbar Rothon in 2002.

Recent tests at Unbar Rothon had shown the batch contained Sudan I but, when the company did the tests at the time of the 2003 recall, it was found to be free of the dye.

"It is assumed by EAFI that this is the reason why the batch was not returned," added the statement.

EAFI is a privately-owned company which was set up in 1979 and supplies food manufacturers with a range of ground spices, herbs and curry powders.

Simon Cripps, executive chairman of the Seasoning and Spice Association, which includes EAFI among its membership, agreed there was no need for the firm to be on alert for Sudan I in 2003.

Meanwhile, the government has promised to learn the lessons from the food scare.

Answering criticism of the FSA by the Tories, Health Minister Rosie Winterton said: "The most important thing in this instance has been to ensure maximum protection for the public in terms of the current situation and we certainly expect the FSA to do just that.

"Of course we will look very carefully at what lessons can be learnt from this episode."

But shadow health minister Chris Grayling accused the government of "burying its head in the sand", adding: "There is a clear need for a proper review of what's gone wrong and of the role of the Food Standards Agency."

Q&A: Sudan I
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