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14 December 2021

Sugar recall under investigation

Contaminated sugar keeps appearing on supermarket shelves.

Four recalls of contaminated sugar in just over a month has attracted the attention of our food safety regulator.

New Zealand Food Safety (NZFS) is investigating the recent recalls made by the New Zealand Sugar Company – maker of Chelsea sugar and home brand sugar for Foodstuffs and Woolworths supermarkets.

Last week’s recall affects 8000 bags (500g and 1kg) of Woolworths raw sugar available from Countdown.

All the recalls were due to potential low level lead contamination.

“Our experts have assessed the risk to be low, based on the levels of lead detected in the sugar and the potential exposure for consumers,” NZFS deputy director general Vincent Arbuckle said.

Arbuckle said NZFS expects businesses to run recalls smoothly.

“That has clearly not happened here. To that end we have started an investigation to identify any issues with the business’ recall process,” Arbuckle said.

A New Zealand Sugar Company spokesperson said contamination was likely to have occurred in the raw ingredient, rather than as part of the manufacturing process.

Neither the New Zealand Sugar Company nor NZFS could tell us how much sugar had been returned to shops to date.

How to return contaminated sugar

You can check if the raw and brown sugar in your pantry is part of the recall on the MPI website.

You can take it back even if you’ve transferred the sugar into a container and thrown out the packaging.

What are the rules about food recalls?

  • All food businesses must have a recall process in place, and practise it, to ensure product recalls run smoothly.

  • Most food recalls are done voluntarily by businesses.

  • Once a business issues a recall, it needs to advise the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), which ensures the recall is carried out correctly.

  • Consumers can report food safety issues by calling MPI (0800 00 83 33).

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