Bart Ingredients: Nut in spices test may not be accurate

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Bart Ingredients said the methods may have given a false positive read
Bart Ingredients said the methods may have given a false positive read

Related tags Supply chain Polymerase chain reaction

Testing which led to the recall of ground cumin because almond was found ‘may not be accurate’, according to Bart Ingredients.

It said another material, mahaleb, gives a positive reading for almond using two different test methods.

Those methods are polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).

Mahaleb is an aromatic spice made from the seeds of a species of cherry and is used in small quantities to sharpen sweet foods.

The firm recalled ground cumin due to allergen concerns at the end of January.

At the time, Greg Corbishley, head of technical at the company, said there are concerns the detection methods used may find false positive readings for almond in cumin.

The firm said it had every confidence in its growers and processors in Turkey and their controls.

Conflicting test readings

Bart Ingredients told FoodQualityNews that it continues to work with the FSA and customers to try and understand the conflicting test readings within the supply chain.

“During our ongoing investigation we have already found one other material in the supply chain, mahaleb, which gives a positive reading for almond using two different test methods.

“Given the conflicting results we are getting and the fact that the supply chain is nut free, there is clear potential that this material, or potentially another yet to be identified material, or indeed cumin itself, may be giving a false positive read.

“We will be able to comment more fully once our investigations with the FSA and the testing laboratories have concluded.”  

Bart Ingredients would not say how mahaleb could have got into the product or who the parties in the supply chain are which produced the conflicting results.

Referee Analysis underway

An FSA spokesman told us Bart Ingredients requested a referee analysis to confirm the results.

“Due to conflicting sampling results obtained at different stages of the supply chain in relation to their product, Bart Ingredients has requested that a referee analysis is undertaken to confirm the results, this testing is currently underway.”

Companies can request such analysis when conflicting evidence emerges, it is unclear when results will be available.

“Since the incident first came to light, Bart Ingredients have co-operated fully with the FSA’s investigation,” ​said the spokesman.

“The company has undertaken all actions expected of them, including the immediate removal of implicated products from the market once a potential health risk was identified.

“They have also investigated their supply chain to identify any weaknesses where contamination could have been introduced.”

Spice supply chain

Another firm, Santa Maria, has been at the centre of recalls in the UK, Denmark, Norway and Sweden​.

The firm terminated the relationship with its Spanish supplier despite it being unclear how almond proteins were found in a delivery of paprika powder.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is advising people who are highly allergic to peanuts to avoid products that contain ground cumin or cumin powder because of peanut protein findings.

Cases of cumin and paprika contaminated with almond protein were discussed at an industry meeting last month​.

The FSA, British Retail Consortium, Food and Drink Federation and Seasoning and Spice Association looked at the supply chains for herbs and spices.

An FSA spokesman said the meeting discussed what further measures might be needed to strengthen consumer protection across the herbs and spices sector. 

“The effectiveness of existing controls were discussed and the workshop provided opportunity to gather and share industry and regulatory expertise of the global supply chain for herbs and spices.  

“The findings from the workshop will be used to inform strategies aimed at further strengthening the robustness of the controls in this sector.”​ 

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