The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is currently testing supplies of cumin and paprika for undeclared peanut and almond protein after almond protein was found in three retail products using a spice mix from Santa Maria UK and a batch of Bart’s Ground Cumin.
Last month, food security expert Chris Elliott, responsible for leading the government’s inquiry into the horsemeat scandal, said the undeclared inclusion of almond or peanut protein in spices was much more serious because of its potential to cause illness or even death and said the situation was a ‘real test’ of the integrity of the UK food supply chain.
In the light of new allergen legislation - requiring food businesses to track all allergenic ingredients in dishes, including nuts - restaurant, hotel and pub owners in particular will be under scrutiny to ensure dishes are safe and therefore are being urged to carry out thorough checks with their suppliers.
Tim Hoiles, chief of operations at supplier information management expert Trade Interchange, said: “Professor Elliott says this is a test of the integrity of the UK food supply system. We strongly advise the industry to better protect the integrity of its supply chain by using supplier information management (SIM) software.
“Big companies in the industry can have hundreds or thousands of suppliers and may not have full or current information about these suppliers or their goods, which can cause real problems.”
Tracey Cranney, operations manager at food safety software company QADEX, said: "Undeclared nuts in any food product is extremely dangerous, whether intentional or not. It is essential that retailers and manufacturers remain on high alert for any fraudulent activity, in particular mislabelled nut products which could sabotage food chains.”
Last week the FSA, the British Retail Consortium, the Food and Drink Federation and the Seasoning and Spice Association met with representatives from across the food industry to discuss measures 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," it said. "The findings from the workshop will be used to inform strategies aimed at further strengthening the robustness of the controls in this sector.”
The FSA said it hadn't issued any specific advice to the catering sector, but suggested that concerned businesses check with their suppliers.