The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has angrily rejected claims that it had inflicted unnecessary costs on the industry and unduly alarmed the public through a disproportionate approach to the Sudan 1 scare.
The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) president Gavin Neath had asked the FSA to clarify why it had insisted on a full public recall, when equivalent agencies in Europe had taken limited action based on risk assessment.
Speaking at the FDF annual dinner, Neath said: "On Sudan 1 there were clear disagreements between us and the FSA. We want to clarify how the issue came to be portrayed as a 'cancer scare' when the FSA's own advice was that the incident posed no risk to health."
His comments came as the FSA issued a new Sudan 1 alert unconnected with the original Premier Foods recall. More products containing the banned substance were also recalled in China, confirming fears that large quantities of the illegal dye were still in the food chain.
However, the FSA insisted it had acted appropriately: "Sudan 1 is a carcinogen and it's illegal in food. This was a legal and potentially a food safety issue and we cannot control how the media covers these things."
Independent food safety consultant Malcolm Kane, who spent 20 years as head of food safety at Sainsbury, backed the agency. He said: "The industry's response to this is really indefensible. It does them no credit at all. Sudan 1 is nasty stuff and it's banned. It's as simple as that."
However, another food safety expert, who asked not to be named, said: "The FSA went over the top. At the levels involved, this clearly wasn't a safety issue. The blanket recall was done as a warning for the industry to get its act together. The testing and certification regime for Sudan 1 clearly isn't working and this stuff is still all over the food chain, despite the controls introduced in 2003."
Meanwhile, Keddies Sauce-masters, the company at the centre of the new UK Sudan 1 recall, said it was "completely baffled" by claims that its ingredients were contaminated.
Last month, Stateside Pizza claimed that a spicy Moroccan sauce supplied to it by Keddies contained Sudan 1, prompting a recall of Asda's Flavours of the World Moroccan Chicken Pizza Flatbread.
However, Keddies claimed tests of sauce samples conducted independently for the company, by its suppliers and by local trading standards officers on behalf of the FSA, had all proved negative and that no other customers had identified a problem.