Recently consignments of pickle from India were found to be contaminated with a banned dye Sudan–I. The dye is banned in food in most countries including European Union, Canada, US and India. The consignment, being dispatched by the Chennai office of the Spices Board of India, was being exported to Canada.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority (FSSAI) of India took note of it and issued an advisory to all the states and union territories on June 25, 2012.The advisory issued by FSSAI has instructed states and union territories to take strict steps to avoid such incidences both with export consignments and in the local markets.
A total of 13 consignments between June 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012 at Chennai were found contaminated with Sudan dye. The consignments belonged to companies named CavinkarePvt Ltd. (Ruchi pickles), Business Navigators India, SGR(777) Foods Pvt Ltd, Same Exports, V.Impex, Viswanath Agro Product International, Glitz Impex and Red Ruby Trading. All rejected consignments are to be destroyed under the supervision of the Board.
Sudan-I is generally used for coloring hydrocarbon solvents, waxes and plastics. It was declared unsafe for use in foods by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) in 1973 on the basis of toxicological evidences. It has been reported to be carcinogenic and contact allergen and sensitizer.
There have been reports of use of Sudan-I in India despite ban. In 2005, there was a big scare in UK after a number of food products were found contaminated with Sudan-I. The Food Standards Agency had ordered to withdraw more than 350 food products from market.The committee set by the Food Safety Agency to enquire into the incident gave its report in 2007.
The chili powder exported from India was found to be the source of contamination. The products being imported in UK have to be certified for being free from Sudan-I since 2003. The Spices Board of India has startedmandatory quality testing for its products after this latest consignment was found contaminated. Earlier the quality testing was being done a voluntary basis.
“Spices Board has initiated mandatory quality testing for chili and chili products and turmeric for aflatoxin and Sudan dyes; nutmeg, mace, ginger for aflatoxin and sugar coated fennel seed for Sunset Yellow before being exported to designated countries. Only cleared consignments are allowed to be exported,” said M R Sudharshan, Director (marketing) of Spices Board of India.
In addition, Spices Board encourages exporters to get spices samples tested for other parameters as per the requirement of the importing countries in Spices Board’s lab on a voluntary basis. The exporters have been warned to take preventive action while purchasing spice and spice products to avoid recurrence of such incidences. The board has also started conducting awareness programmes for farmers, traders and exporters after the incidence.