Premier slips on Sudan 1 fears

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The Independent Online

Worries that the Sudan 1 food scare may have spread to the US sent shares in Premier Foods down 4.7 per cent to 265.5p yesterday, as it tried to reassure the market it would not be hit financially by the fallout from the mass recall of 420 food products from retailers' shelves.

Food industry experts have now identified 12 EU countries, along with the UK, as having food products contaminated by Premier's Crosse & Blackwell Worcester sauce which contains the carcinogenic food dye, Sudan 1. Other countries now affected include Canada and the Bahamas, raising fears it could have entered the US.

The Food Standards Agency has reiterated its general stance that food companies have a duty to make sure that their products are safe, otherwise they could be liable to criminal prosecution by local authorities.

However, Premier said yesterday it was confident it had done its utmost to make sure its products were safe. It reiterated its statement of 18 February which said any financial cost of the product recall - so far estimated at £100m - would be borne by its suppliers and their insurers. A spokesman for the company refused to comment on the possibility of Premier facing criminal prosecutions as a result of the product recalls.

The FSA has said there is no immediate risk to public health as a result of Sudan 1 entering food supplies, although the compound is a potential cause of cancer and is now banned from foodstuffs in the EU.

The problem has escalated rapidly because Premier's Worcester sauce is used as an ingredient in a wide variety of other food products, ranging from some varieties of Walkers crisps to salad dressing used by McDonald's. Sudan 1 is also used to colour solvents, shoe polish and gasoline.