Foodstuffs contaminated with Sudan 1 -- hardly new 'news' -- we've been alerted to product recalls on a regular basis over the past two years since Sudan 1 was first identified in foods in June 2003. At that time, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) ruled that all chilli powder imported into the UK had to be certified free from Sudan 1. Unfortunately, the batch used in the latest recall was imported prior to this requirement, resulting in the recall of some 600 products.
Quite aside from the rules imposed by the FSA on testing for Sudan 1, from January 1, 2005 there is a legal requirement for all operators in the food chain to ensure that a full traceability system is in place, available on demand to local enforcement authorities. This not only includes manufacturers of ingredients and final foods, but also importers of raw materials, handlers and distributors right through to retail to the consumer.
This traceability legislation places the legal obligation on primary importers of foods from outside the European Union to ensure foods comply with European Commission legislation, be it hygiene, contamination, authorised additives or even novel foods. That does not mean that operators further up the food chain who have a certificate from their direct supplier are absolved of responsibility for the validity of their supply chain. While the legislation only requires a 'one-up, one-down' traceability system, due diligence dictates that the provision of information from a supplier must be adequate for that manufacturer to demonstrate that all measures have been taken to ensure that their ingredients or foodstuffs are compliant and fit for human consumption. Ignorance is not an excuse!
While this legislation may seem burdensome, it is working for us. The traceability between Premier Foods and its customers meant that a swift and far-reaching recall was enacted within just over a week of the FSA being informed that the problem existed.
Without this it would have been an infinitely longer process to identify and recall all those products -- a fact widely overlooked in the media coverage.
Jean Feord Business Manager
Leatherhead Food International.