Published: 24/02/2005, Volume II5, No. 5944 Page 7

Hospital caterers have expressed concern that they cannot get a definitive answer as to whether they are serving patients and staff food containing the potentially cancercausing dye Sudan 1.

Hospital Caterers Association chair Alison McCree said the Food Standards Agency had told her it did not know if any NHS trusts used chilli powder contaminated with Sudan 1.

The FSA told her to speak to Premier Foods, the food company that sparked the alert when it was discovered that the dye - normally used to colour petrol and shoe polish - had found its way into Worcester sauce that has been used in hundreds of convenience foods.

The news has triggered the UK's biggest-ever recall of food products.

Ms McCree, associate director of estates and facilities at County Durham and Darlington Acute Hospitals trust, said Premier Foods could not say whether or not it had supplied hospitals or schools.

She told HSJ: 'The FSA called and told us that hospitals should withdraw Walkers Worcester Sauce crisps but that is all; they couldn't say if any trusts had bought products containing Sudan 1 and Premier couldn't help us either. We have been given very limited information - It is very unclear.

'From our trust's point of view we cook-chill all our own foods and know where we have sourced the materials but we haven't got a clear picture across the NHS.' A Department of Health spokeswoman said it could not say whether Sudan 1 had appeared in hospital foods as purchasing was the responsibility of individual trusts. 'Where trusts have any concerns they should seek advice from the Food Standards Agency.' When HSJ asked the FSA whether foods contaminated with Sudan 1 had found its way into the NHS we were told to speak directly to Premier Foods. But a Premier spokeswoman referred us back to the FSA, saying: 'We passed on all the information we had to the FSA.' The NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency is compiling a list of products bought in bulk under national agreement that may be contaminated. It includes Brakes Cooked Mexican Chicken Meat, Westlers Foods Complete Chicken and Weight Watchers Shepherds Pie.

The list, including batch codes, will be regularly updated and is available to NHS staff only on www. pasa.

nhs. uk/food/