Company fined over dangerous tomatoes

A FOOD distributor is more than £5,000 worse off today after allowing potentially lethal tomatoes to be put on the shelves of an Ipswich shop.Aytac Foods, of Enfield, supplied the sun-dried tomatoes to an Ipswich shop where a they were bought by a Suffolk Trading Standards officer on December 8, last year.

A FOOD distributor is more than £5,000 worse off today after allowing potentially lethal tomatoes to be put on the shelves of an Ipswich shop.

Aytac Foods, of Enfield, supplied the sun-dried tomatoes to an Ipswich shop where a they were bought by a Suffolk Trading Standards officer on December 8, last year.

At South East Suffolk Magistrates Court yesterday, Jennifer Alexander, prosecuting, said: "The officer had the tomatoes sent away for testing by a dietician and it was reported in January that they contained 735ml of sulphur dioxide in every 1kg. The legal limit is 200ml."

The dietician reported that the high level of sulphur dioxide, also known as the E-number E220 and used as a preservative, could cause hyperactivity, bronchial spasms to asthma sufferers and even death to those with allergies.


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Miss Alexander added: "The company did not have a quality control system."

Recep Ercan , of Aytac Foods, pleaded guilty to the charges of supplying food with excessive levels of sulphur dioxide.

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In mitigation, he said: "We are a distributor, not a producer of food and this is why we do not have a quality control system.

"The employee in charge of checking the tomatoes for safety standards is no longer with the company."

He said the firm had imported a tonne of the tomatoes and sold just 200 kilograms.

He also said the company had tried to recall as much of the stock as possible and now had measures in place to for future imports.

The tomatoes were sold in a packet under the Aytac brand name – the company has a large operation in Turkey and is now expanding into Britain.

Suffolk trading standards officers believe there are no longer any of these dried tomatoes on sale in this country.

District judge David Cooper fined Aytac Foods £3,000 and made the company pay £2,268 to Suffolk County Council.

Welcoming the court's decision, Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for public protection Peter Monk, said: "The safety of the public is a top priority for us. Our officers are highly trained and sharp-eyed. By spotting and sampling these so-called healthy foods they were able to take swift action to protect the public."

"Legal limits are set to help protect us all from potentially harmful effects of some additives. Suffolk County Council's trading standards officers check these levels because consumers can't. In this case the level of sulphur dioxide could, for an allergy sufferer, have resulted in death."

The case was the result of a sampling programme last year in which fourteen batches of sun-dried tomatoes were tested and only one was found to have excess levels of SO2.

Suffolk County Council took a similar case to court in November 2003.

Food importer, Bevelynn foods of Cheshunt in Hertfordshire, was prosecuted for supplying sun-dried tomatoes with levels of sulphur dioxide over five times the legal limit. The firm were fined a total of  £8,000 plus costs of £3,850 for the food bought at the Friday Street Farm Shop in Suffolk in May 2002.

Are you concerned about the levels of chemical additives in food? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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