Toxicity of Sudan I
Sudan I, II, III and IV are industrial dyes normally used for colouring plastics and other synthetic materials. The current EU legal framework on colours in food establishes a EU positive list of colours authorised for use in food to the exclusion of all others. As Sudan dyes are not included in this list, the presence of these dyes in food contravenes EU legislation. Sudan I is fraudulently used to enhance the colour of the food.
Sudan dyes have a carcinogenic effect and a potential risk of genotoxicity. Consequently, the fraud identified by adulteration of chilli and chilli products by Sudan dyes constitutes a risk for public health.
Legal basis within the EU
On 20 June 2003, the Commission adopted Decision 2003/460/EC on emergency measures regarding the presence of Sudan I in chilli and chilli products. This Decision aimed at avoiding up stream the contamination of food products by testing the ingoing raw materials. It also requested Member States to carry out testing of products on the market in order to assess the extent of the problem and give orientations for review of the Decision.
According to the notifications received through the RASFF after the adoption of Decision 2003/460/EC, the contamination of chilli and chilli products by Sudan I concerned a wide range of food products including chilli and curry powders, as well as various processed foods containing chilli or curry as an ingredient. In addition to the presence of Sudan I, other similar dyes (Sudan II, Sudan III, Sudan IV or Scarlet red) have been found in chilli and chilli products in the EU.
In order to take into account the results obtained in the controls and to ensure appropriate control, Commission Decision 2004/92/EC (adopted on 21 January 2004) amended the initial measures by extending the measures in place to curry powders and to the other dyes of the Sudan Family, i.e. Sudan II, III, IV. Moreover Sudan dyes other than Sudan I had also to be tested.
Since the adoption of this Decision, control authorities continue to find these dyes in chilli, curry powder, chilli or curry products In addition other foodstuffs such as palm oil have also been tested positive for Sudan dyes.
The Commission Decision was notified through the SPS network. Therefore all third countries are aware of the problem.
The Commission wrote to CIAA (29.11.04) and to the European Spices Association (E.S.A) (8.12.04 and 16.02.05) to draw their attention in particular to the fact that, 18 months after the discovery of the problem, these dyes are still found in food. Sudans dyes are classified in Group 3 of IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) as to their carcinogenic risk to humans.