CO-OP stores have removed 14 Co-op brand ready meals from shelves in the wake of the Sudan 1 dye scare.
Other non-Co-op products among the 419 items listed by the Food Standards Agency as containing the banned chemical have also been taken off sale and Co-op customers have been promised a full refund if they return affected items to shops.
The FSA said the dye was in a batch of chilli powder used by Premier Foods to manufacture a Worcestershire sauce, which was then used as an ingredient in a wide range of products.
The Agency is working with the industry and local authorities to ensure that any remaining affected foods are removed from sale. A list of affected products, at www.food.gov.uk/sudanlist will be updated as information becomes available.
Though Co-op stores are not as seriously affected by the problem as some supermarkets, a spokeswoman for the Co-operative Retail Trading Group (CRTG) told the News that societies had acted quickly after the FSA announcement last Friday.
"We are replacing Worcestershire sauce as an ingredient and will be able to return products to shelves very quickly, minimising any inconvenience.
"We are inviting customers to bring back any affected products they may have at home for a full refund. We are reassured by the FSA that this issue poses no immediate risk to health."
Dr Jon Bell, Chief Executive of the Food Standards Agency, commented: "Sudan 1 could contribute to an increased risk of cancer. However, at the levels present the risk is likely to be very small but it is sensible to avoid eating any more. There is no risk of immediate ill-health.
"The Agency is working with the industry to ensure that any remaining affected products are speedily removed. Because of the widespread use of this Worcester sauce to flavour other foods, we may find further affected products. We will continue to take action to remove these and minimise the risks to consumers."
The foods, including soups, sauces and ready meals, have been distributed widely. Currently 419 food products are known to be affected and the FSA say companies whose products are listed are co-operating to ensure items are withdrawn.
Sudan 1 is a dye that should not be added to food and is banned in the UK and across the EU. Since July 2003 all chilli powder imported into the UK has to be certified free of Sudan 1
The FSA and local authorities randomly sample more than 1,000 consignments a year of imported chilli products. However, this batch predates this sampling programme and was uncovered after sampling of Worcestershire sauce produced by Premier Foods and exported to Italy.
The affected Co-op brand ready meals are as follows: Shepherds Pie, 400g; Liver and Bacon Hot Pot, 340g; Shepherds Pie, 4x 227g; Shepherds Pie 2x 227g; Minced Beef and Onion, 150g; Steak and Kidney, 150g; Steak and Kidney 4 pack; Minced Beef and Onion 4pack; Steak and Kidney Shortcrust, 520g; Steak Shortcrust, 520g; Steak Shortcrust, 240g; Steak and Kidney Pudding, 190g; Tex Mex Dip Selection, 4 x 100g; Thin and Crispy Hickory BBQ Chicken Pizza, 310g.