Page last updated at 02:54 GMT, Monday, 28 February 2005

Cancer dye scare: Your reaction

Slice of pizza
The deadline has passed for shops and food companies to identify products containing a dye linked to cancer.

The Food Standards Agency is set to publish a final list of products contaminated with Sudan I dye on Thursday afternoon with shops and food outlets expected to clear any additional products from shelves and freezers.

More than 400 products have already been recalled after they were found to contain the Sudan I dye and the FSA has said firms which do not meet the deadline could face prosecution.

The dye was found in chilli powder used by Premier Foods to make a Worcester sauce used in other products.

Are you worried about the cancer dye scares? Are there enough checks on our food before it gets to the supermarket shelves? Do you think the FSA reacted quickly enough to the scare?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.


The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we received:

The government needs a policy to support small shops
Neil Taberner, Basingstoke, England
With the death of the high street/ small shops, the supermarkets only look to each other and their profit. Not to the quality of what they sell. The government needs a policy to support small shops (butchers, bakers etc) as a counterbalance to the big supermarkets.
Neil Taberner, Basingstoke, England

They will sell you what you buy. If people continue to buy tasteless, textureless, massively over-processed, low quality scraps, stuffed with chemicals, that's what the shops will sell! Buy real food!
Chris Brooksbank, Chelmsford, UK

Car exhaust fumes cause cancer and damage the environment not to mention the direct deaths they cause in accidents. Would the government ever comprehend withdrawing vehicles from the forecourts and roads for these reasons? Not a chance! This is just another example of the double standards we find in politics where one rule does not fit all. Money and corporations decide what is dangerous and what is not. Obviously the food industry does not have the political muscle of the oil industry. That is sad really - if you think about it.
Dean, Birmingham

Simply eat a diet of fresh, organic, unprocessed foods and you'll never need worry about another another food scare ever again.
Tim, London

The FSA did not spot this contamination, the Italians did. To find out the food is dangerous after you've eaten it is too late! The FSA (and we) are very lucky the contamination was not more serious this time around.
John, Fleet, UK

I am sick and tired of companies messing about with our food all for the sake of making money - you are playing with our lives - leave it alone!
Mrs Margaret Horner, Merseyside

We need a radical reform of the food industry
Nestor, Luton UK
I no longer trust any part of our food production from the farmer to the supermarket. We need a radical reform of the food industry and constant inspection - as they cannot be trusted. Grow your own!
Nestor, Luton UK

Years ago when I lived in Germany for a short while I was surprised by their odd, pale coloured tinned peas. Only to be told by my father that this was their natural colour and our bright green versions were dyed. Only recently I saw a toddler sucking on a bottle of bright blue liquid. Our food is already poisoning us, why make such a big fuss over one food dye.
Gill, Hull

A lot of fuss about nothing. Until a few years ago you could eat this stuff by the bucket load if you wanted to. It was only banned a short while ago. I suspect most of us have eaten it (unknowingly) at some time.
Gary, London UK

My girls (12 and 5) refuse to eat processed food because "it tastes yucky". They feel quite pleased with themselves now and I'm glad I've grumbled my way through batches of pizza dough, Bolognese sauce and various other fast food items all cooked from scratch, as I'm a single working mum and would rather not spend my evenings cooking. The supermarkets and food manufacturers will always want people to buy the highly processed stuff as it's where they make their ridiculous profits. They even try to meddle with raw ingredients just so they can a) get more profit by selling us water in meat and b) take the additives out to charge a "lifestyle" premium on the unadulterated article.
All you can do is refuse to be drawn into their game. Buy the ingredients rather than the finished product where you can, grow a few veggies on your balcony and read a couple of cookery books. It won't raise your social class and it can't give you moral superiority in the playground, but your kids might be slightly less manic, you might look and feel a bit better and the supermarkets might not have quite such a stranglehold on the world.
Jojo, South London

Total poppycock! Our foods agencies are panicking like crazy because they did not spot it first. There is no risk - we have been told we would have to eat tons of these products before there was a risk to health. Why they aren't allowed to stay on the shelves is a total mystery! Just needs safeguards put in place to prevent a continued contamination happening that's all.
Ray Borge, Leominster, England.

The current issues involving Sudan I should be making the FSA ask the question what else can get into the human food chain that shouldn't be. It seams fairly obvious to me that if this cancerous dye can make it into the human food chain then what else can? Just because this substance 'could' cause cancer, it shouldn't have been there in the first place and the FSA need to ensure adequate safeguards exist to ensure illegal additives are not making it into produce that we humans are going to eat.
Dave, Glasgow, UK

It's just a case of sensationalist media
LC, Portsmouth, UK
It's all a load of nonsense! A little bit of dye that 'might' cause cancer in humans ( based on research in which mice were probably fed nothing but it for years) has got into a batch of one product that has then been diluted and diluted into other products. It's just a case of sensationalist media. No wonder everyone in this country is living in fear!
LC, Portsmouth, UK

The question is, how long has this been in circulation? How long did it take for us to be informed and how many other potentially dangerous additives are we all consuming everyday? Unfortunately all of us, regardless of social class or money are directly affected by this, just look at some of the brands that are being mentioned!
Titi , UK

I find the 'pass the ball' attitude of the FSA appalling. It was my understanding the Food Standards Agency existed to promote, nay enforce, food standards. Surely it is time for the UK to have an FSA capable of monitoring food (and drink) with the same degree of scrutiny as the drug regulators; after all we are exposed to food everyday.
Andrew Smith, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, England

If people would only stay on the web and do a little research they would find dozens of chemical additives in our food which have been banned across the world but not in the UK. Most of the sweets on sale should be dragged from the shelves too, you are poisoning your children. Behaviour problem? Start by stripping the chemicals from their diet, it worked with ours!
R Taylor, UK

What is much more worrying than this incident is the fact that manufacturers where quite legally adding this substance to their products a few years ago - so we have probably all consumed dangerous amounts of it already - and what other 'legal additives' will be found to be dangerous next ?
Michael Holding, Nottingham

It's absurd that substances like this find their way into our food
Simon Feegrade, London, UK
I agree it's absurd that substances like this find their way into our food but we as consumers must take some of the blame - we seem to like seeing nice bright colours on supermarket shelves. At the same time, manufacturers should take a lead and stop dyeing everything, as part of an overall push to educate us into accepting foods with their natural colours.
Simon Feegrade, London, UK

This whole situation could have been avoided if the Worcestershire sauce manufacturer who have caused this mess had only laboratory tested their raw ingredients before using them.
Gillian, Leicestershire

I am not worried about these somewhat trivial dye scares, as the quantities of Sudan 1 in foodstuffs is so low, that you are more likely to die of obesity trying to get to a sufficient level to cause cancer.
Sam Roseveare, Suffolk, UK

Why do we contaminate our food with substances that are used to colour petrol and solvents? Do we really need unnatural colours to our foods? My family has been unaffected by this because we do not eat processed foods, but perhaps it is time to question what goes into our foods and why.
Rosie, Morden Surrey

The amount of things that we touch everyday that can "give us cancer" is amazing. Photocopier toner, printer ink, non-stick pans which have been scratched. If we paid heed to all of them there'd be huge skips outside everyones' house from all the things they'd be chucking. Its write to warn people about these things, but sometimes the way its done causes mad panic and everyone thinks they'll be dead by the end of the week if they touch a bottle of sauce or something.
Martin, Newcastle

Label products accurately, inform the consumer of the risks and let them then make an informed choice
Dominic, Faringdon, UK
EU legislation that came into force on 1 Jan this year (EC178/2002) was specifically designed to ensure food safety issues such as this were controlled more efficiently. Article 18 of this regulation required "The traceability of food, feed, food-producing animals and any other substance intended to be, or expected to be, incorporated into a food or feed shall be established at all stages of production, processing and distribution". Companies have had three years to put such systems in place. Yet here we are, 11 days after the original discovery of the Sudan 1 dye, still unsure that all products have been identified and withdrawn from sale. The fact that the risk from Sudan 1 is small is fortunate - what if this had not been the case? It also begs the question as to why there is so much resistance to full labelling on all food products - the only way a consumer can tell if the product that they have bought is affected is by going on the Internet or looking in the paper. This is unacceptable - label products accurately, inform the consumer of the risks and let them then make an informed choice.
Dominic, Faringdon, UK

What nobody is saying is, how much has already been consumed and how long has this dye been in the food chain before being discovered...
Steve, Kent

When will the supermarkets be removing cigarettes from their shelves? You have more chance of getting cancer from them than from eating a miniscule amount of Sudan 1.
Ian, UK

There is a simple message here - don't mess with nature or nature will mess with you! I find it hard to comprehend that people choose to eat food packed full of artificial colourings, sweeteners and preservatives. Why not just eat paint?!
Simon, Colchester, UK

I find this whole thing laughable! Sudan 1 was only made illegal in 2003, so we've all eaten loads of it before anyway. The tiny amount that has found its way into the food is going to be nothing compared to what we've already eaten, so it's not going to kill us. The media are blowing this whole thing out of proportion, as usual.
James, Didcot, UK

This isn't the fault of any UK based company, who all have to exercise documented 'due diligence' in food production. Unfortunately, exotic spices come from exotic countries, where such systems are not in place, and mistakes are more likely to happen (Sudan 1 is probably legal in some countries and a level of cross contamination obviously occurred). I think people should be more concerned with the general ignorance of basic hygiene - more people will be killed by the raw Christmas turkey dripping on the cooked Christmas ham in the domestic fridge than by any dye
Chris, Bourne, UK

This is an appalling situation that must surely affect a huge proportion of the general population
Rob, Suffolk, UK
Are these 'healthy eating' individuals all telling us that neither their children nor themselves have ever eaten a bag of crisps, used a 'cook-in' sauce, or put dressing on their salad? I went to a local restaurant over the weekend and half of the menu was off due to recall (this included salads and desserts). This is an appalling situation that must surely affect a huge proportion of the general population and not just the 'food slobs' that some of the commentators below are alluding to.
Rob, Suffolk, UK

The only way people can protect themselves from cancer causing dyes, preservatives and pesticides is to have our own vegetable gardens, bake our own bread and slaughter our own livestock. Since our modern world doesn't permit us the time, space or facilities to do this, we must all live on pre-packaged foods and deal with the circumstances.
Ellen, Cardiff, Wales

There are many negative comments here about people who eat ready meals. I eat them a couple of times a week but buy low-fat, low-sugar, low-salt, etc. If I had the time, I'd cook properly every night. You can't just say it's my fault for choosing such products, as I bought them in good faith. It's the Government that should ensure they are safe. I'd hardly call Worcester Sauce a fast food...
Andrew Dick, London

They need to review their diets
Gemma Bell, Cheltenham, England
So far, not one single item on the product lists affects myself or my family, as we have never purchased any of the products! One observes that most of the items are meat based convenience type foods. We are vegetarian and mainly fresh food diet. So the message would seem to be - for those being badly affected by this, they need to review their diets and switch to much more healthy eating!
Gemma Bell, Cheltenham, England

Why do foods need additives and dyes anyway? If we bought real food instead of factory produced supermarket rubbish it would taste better as well as not being as harmful.
Bill, Lanarkshire

Maybe this latest scare may "educate" people into realising what vast amounts of unnecessary and questionable ingredients go into processed food. Hopefully people will think more about what they are eating and this will encourage them to cook their own food using basic ingredients as nature intended. The NHS bill will certainly be reduced if people start to cook proper food.
Kathy, Wallasey, Wirral

Smoking carries a much higher risk than the traces of Sudan 1 in some foodstuffs. When are we going to clear the shelves of tobacco products?
Nick, UK

People seem happy to run the risks of being obese, binge-drinking smokers in this country but give them a vague possibility of a hint of a conceivable risk from eating certain products and everyone goes bananas! Let's keep a sense of proportion, please!
Susan, Haverhill, UK

Are we so fickle these days that we can't judge food on aroma and flavour?
Christine, UK
I know this was an accident and accidents can happen anywhere. I looked at the list and luckily I didn't have any of the products mentioned in my cupboards. It does make you think of what they put in processed foods. Are we so fickle these days that we can't judge food on aroma and flavour, but we have to have it colourful like some cartoon food?
Christine, UK

As if I ever needed proof that ready meals are a bad idea, here it is. Its not just that they just taste of salt and sugar. Its not the fact that they aren't particularly healthy. Its the fact that they are part of a process that is very easy to break. One thing goes wrong and millions of 'meals' are affected. Even BSE was more contained in this respect. Personally I worry more about the scares we don't here about than those that we do.
Carl J , Oxford

Why are lists of affected products only available over the internet? Not everyone has access to the internet. Supermarkets are not displaying lists of affected items - the shelves may be cleared but they don't seem to care what you have bought already.
Anonymous

Perhaps this is a chance for a supermarket to launch a range of cheap "colour free, dye free" produce. May not look as good but safer. They may even be cheaper if people would buy them...
David, Durham, UK

If we all ate balanced diets, cut out the processed foods and spent time on what we put into our bodies there would be no panic. Another feather in the cap of organic and local grown produce.
Karen, Milton Keynes, UK

This seems to show that the government agency are not reacting swiftly enough and have not got the teeth, (or maybe the inclination) to do anything about things until it's too late to prevent this type of material getting into the system. Premier Foods have said that they have received paperwork to say that there was nothing untoward in the materials that they were supplied with for their process, so isn't it time that controls were made tight on the imported materials and that everything shown on paper was verifiable by an independent agency.
J Burdall, Matlock, England

This is simply scare-mongering the people
Stephen, Cardiff
If I listened to every health scare from scientists I would be dead this time next week from starvation. This is simply scare-mongering the people, and if there was indeed a problem, where were the quality control procedures?
Stephen, Cardiff

I hope that people learn a lesson from this. Having all our eggs in one basket (the supermarket economy) exposes us to much greater risks than if we had a diverse food retail sector. Buy from farmers when you can, smaller local shops when you can, and use produce which is in season where you live; this is better for the environment, for the economy and for you!
Duncan Hothersall, Edinburgh, Scotland

The FSA have done all they can, but will a prosecution result? What we should be investigating is Premier Foods, and how this dye got into the food chain. When you are dealing with food consumption, stringent tests should be made from the beginning. The originator should be blamed not the relevant companies who used it in good faith. Will the company found guilty for letting this into the food chain be prosecuted for failing to stick to health and safety standards? The least they can do is compensate small corner shops for loss of sales/returns, not the companies they sold their product to.
Karen Smith, London, UK

If the link with cancer was really that strong, would Premier foods have used it in the first place? There is a very big difference between a slight possible link with cancer in animals and an imminent issue for humans. I guess the question is, should we ban all foods as soon as there is any link with any risk? I don't think so - there are more deaths from food packaging than from any obscure ingredient.
Luke Briner, Weymouth, UK

With the amount of additional rubbish, additives and colourants already injected into our food, surely the damage to our health is already done - why should one more make any difference?
Karen, Berkshire

It's not nearly as serious as the scaremongers would have you believe
Peter, Nottingham
While this is unfortunate, it's not nearly as serious as the scaremongers would have you believe. Sudan 1 has not been proven to be carcinogenic in humans, it's merely suspect. Some Sudan 1 in chilli powder was used to make Worchester Sauce. tiny amounts of this sauce were then used in processed foods. Even if it had been sodium cyanide rather than Sudan 1 there is so little in the processed foods that there is no measurable risk to health at all. Burnt toast contains far more carcinogens than the affected foods.
Peter (CRUK researcher), Nottingham

I know that the risk is very low, but... if it is risky enough to remove the products why did it take so long from finding out to being removed from shelves? According to the Times on Saturday they knew at the beginning of February. That is nearly three weeks! The FSA is toothless and again we are shown what is the priority - profit not people. Secondly it was discovered in Italy purely by chance. Therefore, how many other cases are happening without us finding out? Given how this was discovered and the cheapness of some of our ready prepared foods I guess it happens frequently.
Anna Charlton, London

It seems the Sudan1 amounts involved in each product are minimal and any risk is slight but lets hope it scares people enough to stop them eating fat and calorie laden ready meals and gets them back to cooking fresh healthy meals for the same amount of money.
Colin, Beckenham, England

Why do things need to be dyed, are red chillies no longer available?
Nat, Colchester, Essex

It is very worrying that even now we still don't know all the products affected - and therefore could still be eating them. Experts say it's only a small risk but it's still a risk. Why is the list of affected products only available via the internet? There are many people who cannot access the net - are they not important enough to be told what's in their foods? One question I do have is why is Worcester Sauce being added to so-called vegetarian meals? I was under the impression it contained anchovies, which certainly aren't vegetarian.
Sarah, Chester, UK

I hope that the authorities come down very hard on all concerned
Kevin Maw, Hartlepool
With Supermarkets making multibillion pound profits, farmers out of business, supply chains obviously taking illegal shortcuts, I think that it is unacceptable for the big chains to pass this off as a 'supply chain blunder'. There has to be an element of cause and effect in any error as widespread as this. I hope that the authorities come down very hard on all concerned, not least the big chains that have effectively placed this poison in peoples baskets.
Kevin Maw, Hartlepool

The only way to ensure that you don't have harmful chemicals in your food is to buy organic produce. Who can say whether the chemical additives we use today will turn out to cause cancer too? If you eat organic produce this will never be a problem.
Dominic Tristram, Bath, UK

Dominic Tristram, Bath, UK. The Sudan 1 should never have got into the food in the first place. How do you know that your organic food hasn't also been accidentally contaminated with carcinogens? At any stage from planting, to packaging the foods could be contaminated. Unless you expect a full toxicology report with every potato you have to accept a tiny risk of food contamination. Personally I worry far more about the E.coli from manure used to fertilise your organic veg and the salmonella in your organic eggs. Those are real health risks, not food dye.
Peter, Nottingham

That's just the tip of the iceberg. The FSA allows such additives as Sodium Benzoate as wholly unnecessary colouring for the likes of orange juice. The FSA should concentrate on everything being wholesome not disguised, as the Worcester Sauce was an artificial colouring. I wish a great pox on the food industry that use these additives, as with salt and sugar, to falsify the food. We are being slowly poisoned.
David Ball, Wokingham, Berkshire




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