Almond Contamination

Food Standards Agency probes unlabelled nuts

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Unlabelled almonds have been discovered in fajita kits sold by Morrisons and Aldi
Unlabelled almonds have been discovered in fajita kits sold by Morrisons and Aldi

Related tags Food

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is probing the presence of unlabelled almonds in three food products recalled since the end of last month.

The almonds were detected in fajita kits from Aldi and Morrisons and in Bart Ground Cumin.

According to the FSA: “Currently, there is no evidence to link the undeclared almond protein results in UK products to the recalls of cumin and cumin containing product in the US. Investigations are on-going and both the FSA and the food industry are continuing to test cumin, products containing cumin and other spices for both undeclared peanut and almond protein.”

The FSA had been checking for problems with cumin supplies in the UK and will continue to take action to protect consumers, it added.

The agency’s investigation is focusing on how the food came to be contaminated and whether any other food products contain unlabelled nuts.

First real test

The discovery was the first real test of the UK food supply chain, since the horsemeat crisis of 2013, said professor Chris Elliott, head of Queen’s University’s Institute for Global Security in Belfast.

“Whatever notifications from the US appear, it is a warning to the rest of the world that there is a problem,”​ he told The Independent​. “It's actually much, much more serious because in the whole horse meat scandal nobody got ill and nobody died because of it.

“But if you happen to be allergic to almonds or peanuts there is the potential of getting ill or even dying because of it.”

Failure of the cumin crop in India may have to the substitution of cumin by almond and other nut proteins, some have suggested.

On Saturday (February 14) Aldi recalled its Fiesta brand Fajita Dinner Kit due to the undeclared presence of almond in the seasoning mix. The recall affects its 475g kits with a best before date of February 10 to July 29 2015.

NHS Choices

“In the most serious cases, a person has a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), which can be life-threatening.”

On Thursday (February 12) Morrisons issued a similar recall. Its recall affected 500g products with a before date of February 8 to July 13 2015.

Bart Ground Cumin was recalled in January 31, after undeclared almond protein was detected in a sampling programme initiated by the FSA, after batches of ground cumin and products containing ground cumin tested positive for undeclared peanut protein in the US and Canada.

Undeclared peanut protein

“None of the products recalled in the US or Canada was distributed to the UK, however as a precaution the FSA began testing cumin sold in this country,”​ said the agency in a statement.

The FSA said it was continuing to work with US authorities, port authorities in the UK and producers and importers of spices.

The NHS Choices​ website warns nut allergies, including peanuts, are relatively common in both school-age children and adults.

It lists allergic reactions to peanuts – along with milk, eggs, fish and shellfish – as being the most common in children.  

“In the most serious cases, a person has a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), which can be life-threatening,”​ according to the website.

Meanwhile, Queen’s University is to build a £30M food research centre in Belfast, as an extension to its Institute for Global Security, it emerged last week.

The new facility will develop strategies to enable food production to keep pace with the rapidly growing number of people in the world. It was planned to boost the agri-food industry in Northern Ireland by supporting the growth of local sustainable food production.

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