The Food Standards Agency has announced the setting up of an incidents task force to strengthen existing controls in the food chain in order to reduce the possibility of future contamination incidents like those involving Para Red and Sudan I, and to improve the management of such incidents where they do occur.

The task force will be chaired by the agency's chief executive, Dr Jon Bell, and will include senior representatives from the food industry, enforcement authorities and consumer organisations as well as two independent members.

"In the light of recent Sudan I and Para Red food withdrawals we need to find practical ways of reducing the number of incidents of food contamination," said Julia Unwin, acting chair of the FSA. "When they do occur, we need quick, effective and appropriate action from all those involved."

"The task force will help us achieve the overall objectives in our strategic plan to work with industry to reduce high and medium risk incidents by 25%," she said

The task force will identify practical ways of reducing the likelihood of food contamination incidents occurring and identify ways of deciding upon the proportionality of any response. It will ensure that the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders in risk management of food contamination incidents are clearly agreed so that action is taken quickly, effectively and proportionately if incidents do occur and  identify ways that the agency might champion the uptake of the measures identified.

The task force is due to report back to the board on progress in the autumn and will hold its first meeting next month.

The issue of food contamination of illegal dyes has recently been discussed by the European Commission. It has asked for a risk assessment of dyes such as Sudan I and Para Red to be conducted by the European Food Safety Authority. A group of countries, co-ordinated by the UK, is looking at introducing uniform testing methodology to ensure consistent testing across Europe. In the meantime the Agency has advised food businesses on an interim standardised approach.

The organisations invited to participate in the FSA task force are the British Retail Consortium, Food and Drink Federation, British Hospitality Association, Which?, National Consumer Council, Local Authorities' Co-ordinators Of Regulatory Services, Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and the National Farmers Union.