Sudan dyes are red dyes that are used for colouring solvents, oils, waxes, petrol, and shoe and floor polishes. They are not allowed to be added to food in the UK and the rest of the European Union.
However, Sudan dyes have been found in a large number of food products containing contaminated chilli powder, which was imported mainly from India. Fresh chillies are not affected.
The risk to your healthSudan dyes have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals and these findings could also be significant for human health. Because Sudan dyes may contribute to the development of cancer in people they are not considered safe to eat.
But there is no immediate risk of illness. At the levels found in these foods the risk is likely to be very small.
What the Food Standards Agency is doingThe Agency is working with local authorities to stop all products containing Sudan dyes (this includes Sudan I, Sudan II, Sudan III and Sudan IV, which is also known as scarlet red) from being sold in the UK. It is also asking companies that produce and sell these products to make sure they are withdrawn and recalled.
Cargoes of dried and crushed or ground chilli and curry powders coming into any country in the EU must be accompanied by a certificate showing they have been tested and found to be free of Sudan dyes. Random sampling is also being carried out at ports and by local authorities. All consignments found to contain these dyes are destroyed.