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NZFSA too slow over carcinogenic food inquiry

22 February 2005

NZFSA too slow over carcinogenic food inquiry

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority's response to the potential presence of illegal carcinogenic dyes in our foods has been totally inadequate, Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

Whilst many hundreds of food items containing the illegal Sudan dye have been withdrawn in the United Kingdom over the last 18 months, the food watchdog in this country has sat on that information, taking virtually no action until now.

"They have known about the problem since 2003, yet appear to have done virtually no testing of products since their initial check on chilli powders more than a year ago.

"Why has it taken the NZFSA so long to get serious about this?"

In the UK the carcinogenic dye has been found in chilli powders, palm oil and a huge range of products containing these ingredients. More than 200 products containing palm oil have been withdrawn over the last year, but where is the testing of palm oil in this country? The NZFSA seem to be oblivious to the palm oil problem, referring only to chilli powder as a potentially contaminated food product, she said.

Ms Kedgley is calling for the implementation of a full traceability system for food ingredients, so that situations like this can be resolved much more speedily.

"New Zealand consumers deserve to have confidence that all their food is free of illegal substances, but how can they without a traceability system that can pinpoint the origin of food ingredients? And how can consumers have confidence in the NZFSA to protect out food system when they don't take the presence of illegal dyes seriously?"

Ms Kedgley is calling on the NZFSA to carry out ongoing random testing on all foods at risk of containing Sudan dyes. "We should also be looking at the UK approach, where regulations have required since July 2003 that foods be tested for this illegal substance."

Ms Kedgley said European countries had moved swiftly to develop a method for detecting the four types of Sudan red dyes and to instantly recall any products found to be contaminated. New Zealand would pay a high price if it didn't adopt the same approach.

ENDS

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