Unauthorised colours, plastic fragments found in products

By Lindsey Partos

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European union

Bakers and snack makers must remain vigilent in the face of food safety as the European alert system last week throws up negligence in the supply chain.

A too high content of the sunset yellow colour, an unauthorised use of brilliant blue and allura red colours, and the detection of plastic fragments in foods, were all flagged up at the end of July, according to data from Europe's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF).

RASFF, a eurozone tool to minimise risk to the food chain, reported four information notifications from member states last week. Such notifications, sent directly to the European Commission, are triggered when a food, or feed, presenting a risk to the consumer has been identified.

In week 30, the 21 to 27 July, the RASFF received 21 information notifications in total from member states, of which four targeted the bakery and snacks industry.

The UK warned that, following a border control, it had detected a too high content of the artificial colour E110 - sunset yellow FCF (416mg/kg - ppm) - in a cheese snack hailing from Iran.

Sunset yellow, along with five other artificial colours, is the focus of a legislative package adopted by the European Parliament last month that will see foods proffering any of these artificial colours in their formulations labelled with a health warning for children.

Foods containing tartrazine (E102), quinoline yellow (E104), sunset yellow (E110), carmoisine (E122), ponceau 4R (E124) and allura red (E129), will have to be labelled "may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children".

Manufacturers have eighteen months to comply with the new labelling requirements following the official publication of the law, which is expected within the next few weeks.

Many large companies, such as Cadbury and Nestle, have already made pledges to remove all artificial colourings from their products.

And in a hint of things to come following the new rules from Europe, the RASFF system reports the unauthorised use for a clutch of these artificial colours in fruit flavoured multigrain cereals product from South Africa.

Alerted by Cyprus, the authorities detected the unauthorised use of sunset yellow, allura red and E133 brilliant blue colour in the South African product.

Moving away from colours, the EU's food risk network reported that Finland had notified the system, following a consumer complaint, on the undeclared presence of wheat. Wheat flour was not labelled - that under EU rules must be flagged, notably for gluten intolerant consumers - in Finnish for a chocolate marshmallow product hailing from Denmark.

Finally, RASFF observes in its week 30 report that following a UK company's own check, the firm discovered plastic fragments - pieces of hard blue plastic - in pre-baked apple pies originating from the UK.

For information notifications, defined as such by EU, other members of the network do not have to take immediate action, because the product has not reached their market, or is no longer present on their market, or because the nature of the risk does not require any immediate action.

By contrast, alert notifications - the second prong of the RASFF - are sent when immediate action is required due to the serious risk of the product, aiming to give all members key information to verify whether the concerned product is available on their market, in order to take immediate action.

Finally, the third prong are border rejections. These notifications concern food and feed consignments that have been tested and rejected - due to the health risk - at the external borders of the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA).

Related topics Processing & Packaging

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