THE chaos surrounding the cancer-scare food alert deepened last night as The Northern Echo discovered products on the Government's danger list on sale more than a week after warnings were issued.

As the food industry continued to reel from Britain's biggest products recall, The Northern Echo found that some corner shops are still selling items on the banned list.

Reporters were able to buy banned convenience foods in County Durham and Teesside.

The discovery came more than a week after the Food Standards Agency (FSA) alerted the industry to possible contamination by the banned carcinogenic substance Sudan 1.

Although supermarkets were given a list of suspect products on Monday, February 14, the details were not made public until Friday.

There is evidence of widespread confusion across the country. Although supermarkets moved quickly to remove all traces of the banned products, some smaller stores have been slower to react.

Millions of tonnes of ready meals have been placed in skips and buried in landfill sites. Any products containing raw meat must be incinerated.

As the list of banned products continued to grow, local authorities and NHS trusts have been drawn into the scare.

Two leading catering companies - 3663 and Brakes - said they had supplied possible suspect foods to schools and hospitals.

The companies, which also hold major contracts with pubs and restaurants, said they had ordered a recall of all potentially-contaminated items as soon as they were contacted about the problem.

Yesterday, the FSA said some affected Worcester sauce produced by Premier Foods may have been used in the catering sector.

Schools and hospitals throughout the North-East were checking their inventories last night.

However, County Durham and Darlington Acute Hospitals NHS Trust said it had not been supplied with any of the items on the FSA list.

And Paul Birch, of South Tees Hospitals NHS Trust, said: "Extensive checks so far have not found any of the potentially-contaminated items."

Durham County Council said it had sent warnings to all its schools via its Extranet information system, to ensure that no products on the FSA list were being served.

But despite the widespread publicity surrounding the alert, The Northern Echo found numerous corner shops selling products potentially affected by Sudan 1 yesterday.

Consumer watchdogs said they were concerned by the findings and urged food retailers to withdraw the products from the shelves immediately.

Suspect snacks were widely available in Darlington. Reporters bought individual and multi-packs of beef and tomato Pot Noodles with best-before dates of April - products on the FSA list for removal.

Packets of Walkers' Worcester sauce flavour crisps, also with best-before dates, could also be found in shops.

Darlington Borough Council's trading standards team said it had also found a vast array of banned products on sale - including 500 Pot Noodles in one shop.

A council spokesman said: "There seems to be a black hole of information as far as getting through to small businesses goes. We have now taken the step of writing more than a thousand letters to businesses."

Reporters also bought suspect Pot Noodle at stores on Teesside.

Some local authorities have written to food retailers reminding them of their responsibilities.

Hartlepool Borough Council has sent a notification to 816 firms selling food, while Wear Valley District Council, in County Durham, has contacted 350 businesses.

North Yorkshire County Council's trading standards team said it had received no complaints, but had taken several calls from concerned people inquiring about what they could eat.

Bakery company Greggs said yesterday it had withdrawn some sandwiches as a precaution.

A spokeswoman for the Newcastle-based firm said three of its types of sandwich were withdrawn on February 15.

She said: "They were withdrawn immediately because the mayonnaise was found to contain a small dash of Worcester sauce which was potentially a problem.

"Alternative supplies were found by February 17."

The alert was sparked last week when a consignment of Crosse and Blackwell Worcester Sauce, made by Premier Foods, was found to contain chilli powder contaminated with the dye.

Sudan 1 is normally used as a colouring in solvents, oils, waxes, petrol, shoe and floor polish.

Experts warn it could contribute to an increased risk of cancer, although there is unlikely to be an immediate risk to health.