Recall policy under fire as FSA takes relaxed view of GM rice

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Fsa Food standards agency Food Gm

Recall policy under fire as FSA takes relaxed view of GM rice
Environmentalists accuse FSA of being inconsistent over recall of illegal product

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has hit out at allegations that it is not dealing with potential breaches of European food law consistently because it failed to call for a withdrawal of products containing a strain of genetically-modified (GM) rice known as LL601.

"Last year, the FSA insisted on a full recall of products containing Sudan 1 because it was illegal and should not be on the market, irrespective of the food safety risk. So why is the FSA taking a different approach with GM rice this year?" said Friends of the Earth (FoE) GM campaigner Clare Oxborrow.

The FoE has threatened the FSA with legal action unless it revises its assessment of the potential risk of LL601 and ensures products are withdrawn.

However, the FSA defended its actions, saying the two situations were "completely different". It said: "Sudan 1 is a carcinogen. GM rice is not. We are taking a proportionate response."

The European Commission and the FSA have moved quickly to block imports of potentially contaminated rice by insisting that consignments from the US are only released into the EU after importers have secured non-GM certificates from suppliers. However, the FSA has not asked the UK food industry to withdraw any contaminated product already on sale, on the basis that there was no food safety risk.

Its approach to Sudan 1 has been firmer. FSA board members recently expressed "sheer frustration" at Lincolnshire County Council's decision not to take any legal action against Premier Foods following recalls of over 600 products contaminated with Sudan 1 and Para Red dyes.

Meanwhile, the FSA chief executive John Harwood has promised a "thorough examination" of two inquiries into the same incident carried out by Rochdale District Council and Derbyshire County Council.

Richard Matthews, head of product liability at the law firm Eversheds, claimed the FSA was "stuck between a rock and a hard place". He said: "Last year, it was criticised by the food industry for taking a disproportionate response to Sudan 1 and now it is being accused of not being strict enough. It can't win."

A more pressing issue was who was going to foot the bill for the new 'positive release' system of certificates for rice, he added. "There will be a lot of legal arguments over who bears the cost of the certificate and the cost of delays as products are held up."

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