Sudan dye in Indian chillies?

We spoke to Dr.P.S.S.Thampi, Dy. Director (Publicity), Spices Board on the controversy regarding presence of Sudan I dye in Indian chilli exports.

There is hot news now about Indian chilli exports containing the presence of Sudan I dye? What steps have been taken to deal with this issue? The dye sudan is  a banned stuff in Europe and some other countries, they are very strict. The EC has come out with a rapid alert system on sudan  which was detected in various consignments  of chillies. The Board reacted sharply and instantly to it. The Board has notified that every consignment of chillies exported from India needs to be tested prior to shipment for traces of sudan.

Sudan comes in four versions. Sudan 1, Sudan 2, Sudan 3 and Sudan 4 which is also called as scarlet red. Now each exporter whether he is exporting chillies in whole form, powdered or crushed or mixed or exporting masalas with chillies as an ingredient will have to intimate to the Spices Board for taking samples for testing sudan traces and only if the consignment is found free of the stuff export will be allowed, if found export will not be allowed. Those of the companies who were found adopting the practice of using sudan were subject to stern action by the Board. Their licenses were suspended and were not revoked for a stipulated period.
Even alerts were issued to the trade and industry not to have any trade alliance with such companies who were found doing this. It may be seen that exports showed better performances despite the fact there was stiff controls in exports imposed by the Board to improve and assure quality.

There is a report that chilli farmers of Andhra are faced with guilt with the production because of the Sudan dye scare in the export market. What steps you have taken to ensure fair price to the chilli farmers.

Many similar reports have come. You may know that the scare of sudan is at the processing level and not at the farmer level, the threat at the farm level is the threat of pesticides.  The sudan scare and the resultant steps have only contributed to exports and not decline.
Are you sure chilli powder used in the India in masalas and food ingredients are free from sudan 1 dye? Do the Indian manufacture of food ingredients using chilli powder take quality services from the Spices Board?

As regards the domestic quality is concerned the Board cannot say anything since it is not our area of concern or we do not have any authority on that front.  Sudan is carcinogenous whether it be used outside or inside India it is harmful to health. The Agencies like the FPO and Agmark and the local health authorities of state governments are normally vested with this job.

How the exporters are able to escape from the Board’s supervision?
They cannot.  Since the export license of the Board is required for exports and customs will not permit exports without the Board license and importing countries will insist on sudan test certificate of the Board for clearance.

[hidepost] Are the chillies quality checked? How? Please explain to the benefits of our readers who are all highly placed and well informed agro entrepreneurs.

Samples are taken by the designated labs in the presence of the Spices Board officials. The lot is sealed and is allowed to be cleared only after the test is over. The samples are tested at the Spices Board lab in Cochin. The lab is geared up for fully meeting the test requirements of samples received from across the country.

The Chairman of the Spices Board terms the scenario as :  “Clearly a serious  threat has been converted into a massive opportunity to push up exports”.  This is relating to the threat that had come to Indian exports in the light of the eruption of the Sudan red controversy.

The European Union’s rapid alerts  on Sudan [though many of their conclusions were questionable] called for urgent and emergent steps on the part of the Spices Board to introduce  pre-shipment inspection and screening of all consignments of chillies, chilli powders and chilli products and food products containing chillies.   The exporting community also contributed their might in improving the quality resulting in smooth flow of exports.  The scare of sudan that had spread throughout the international market had cast a shadow on Indian spices exports for some time. But the timely and  initiatives that the Spices Board had taken on a war footing had not only prevented the exports of adulterated consignments but at the same time beefed up the exports to greater heights.

Against a target of 250,000 tonnes valued at Rs 2000  crores [in dollar terms US$ 450] for fiscal 2004-05, total spices exports went up to 182,580 tonnes valued at Rs 1490.25 crores [in dollar terms US$ 323.05] during the period April 2004 to January 2005.  The commodity,  chillies that  was subject to strict monitoring for quality checks,  performed well by recording significant increases to 54,000 tonnes valued at Rs 243.81 crores during April 2004 to January 2005 as against the targeted 75,000 tonnes valued at Rs 315 crores for the entire fiscal year 2004-05.  These  performances are  unprecedented in the history of spice exports.

Compared to last year,  the export has shown an increase of 54 percent in terms of quantity and 16 percent in rupee terms.  In dollar terms the increase is the export target for 2004-2005  has been met and even surpassed by January.

Against the export target of 250,000 tonnes valued at 2,000 crores for the year, the achievement during first ten months at 280,361 tonnes valued at Rs.1725.10 crores is 112 per cent in quantity and 86 per cent in value.  The achievement is 85 per cent in Dollar terms?
In no way could the sudan scare could have  contributed to the piling of stocks at farmers fields as you go by the above statements there is smooth flow of exports. The international buyers are now confident of buying from India now as there is total assurance of this being free of sudan. The Board also takes every opportunity to publicise the efforts taken to control and improve quality.

Our Correspondent