A FOOD factory that seemed to have escaped the effects of the Sudan 1 scare has seen sales plummet.

International Cuisine, in Consett, County Durham, had to put its workforce of 500 on short time for the past two weeks as orders dropped by a fifth.

The 85,000sq ft factory, which produces one million chilled ready-meals a week for supermarkets, had not used the potentially cancer-causing dye in any of its lines.

But the scare last month led to shoppers avoiding processed foods and International Cuisine was affected.

Managing director Bill Connolly said: "None of our products were directly affected, but the legacy has had an impact.

"Orders were down by 20 per cent. We had to make reductions in the hours worked as a result of the reduced workload.

"Thankfully, the situation is normalising now and the order book is back to where it should be."

International was set up in 1988 on the Number One Industrial Estate, in Consett, with 14 employees. It is now the area's largest employer.

Last month, Sudan 1, which is banned in the UK, was found to have contaminated a batch of chilli powder used to make a large consignment of Crosse and Blackwell Worcester Sauce.

In turn, this was added as an ingredient in a range of other products.

North-East factories directly affected included the Walkers Snack Foods plant, in Peterlee, County Durham, which had to withdraw its Worcester sauce flavour crisps.

A spokeswoman for Walkers said: "Inevitably, there has been an impact on sales, but it is too soon to determine the extent.

"Importantly, Worcester sauce flavour crisps only make up a very small percentage of the total Walkers portfolio and all our new packs are now on the shelf, so we are back to business as usual."

Bakery chain Greggs also had to recall a sandwich line, after using a small amount of the contaminated sauce in a batch of dressing.

Northern Foods, which owns the Dalepak plant, in Leeming Bar, North Yorkshire, said its products were not affected but declined to say whether orders had been affected.

Kerry Foods, which has chilled ready-meal plants in Durham and Hartlepool, had used contaminated products in some lines, but removed them before the scare became public. Other food producers in the region were unaffected