Food to Die For

Issue section: 

The promised panacea of processed supermarket food tastes more unpleasant than ever with the discovery that hundreds of products have been contaminated with a potentially cancer-causing dye.

Sudan 1 has been found in over 400 sauces, soups, salad dressings and other food products. All the big supermarkets, which control more than 70 percent of the grocery market in Britain, are affected.

Processed food is already responsible for a shopping list of damaging environmental and health impacts. The volume of packaging waste is increasing in both per unit and absolute terms; food is being transported further than ever and thus accelerating global warming; chemical pesticides are eroding soil and contaminating water supplies; and high salt, sugar and saturated fat contents are swelling obesity and heart disease rates.

Now to add to the BSE and foot and mouth crises we have the biggest product recall in history as a dye used for shoe polish finds its way into the food chain. Although banned under EU regulations since 1995, it is only since July 2003 that products entering Britain have needed to be certified as free from it.

Though it has been shown to be carcinogenic for laboratory rats, there is no conclusive advice as to the effect of Sudan 1 on humans. This is despite the fact that the US banned its use in 1918. Since then capitalism has given us the nuclear bomb and annexed the moon but has failed to eradicate the use of an additive with no nutritional value, whose only quality is to give crops a superficially healthy lustrous red glow.