SCORES of corner shops, newsagents and supermarkets in Hampshire could still be stocking food contaminated with Sudan One dye.

Environmental health experts have hit the streets to carry out spot checks on hundreds of food retailers.

And the warning is: Remove the hazardous food, or prosecution could follow.

Almost 500 products carrying the dye, which has been shown to cause cancer in mice, have been identified.

Own-brand products for national retailers such as Asda, Waitrose and Tesco have been pulled from the shelves in what is the biggest recall of food in history.

The vast majority of contaminated products were removed from stores before the Food Standards Authority deadline at 2pm on Thursday.

But there are fears that scores of small retailers unwittingly still have the illegal stock on sale.

Southampton City Council's environmental health officers have teamed up with trading standards to make sure all 1,600 food outlets in the city are aware of their responsibility - to bin the contaminated products.

Environmental health manager Mitch Sanders said: "This is the biggest food recall that we have ever seen in this country. At the moment, there's a need to simply get out there and raise awareness.

"There is a huge amount of publicity, but a lot of people haven't taken positive action. We are dealing with that by physically giving them a bit of paper detailing every food item on the list."

Yesterday, nine officers each visited 30 small food outlets.

Big supermarket chains have been left to deal with the problem on their own for now - leaving about 800 corner shops, newsagents, pubs, sandwich bars and cafes for the team to inspect.

Similar operations are taking place across the county, with district officers being joined by Hampshire County Council's Trading Standards experts.

I joined Southampton's food safety team leader Gavin Derrick as he headed to the Asian Cash and Carry, in St Mary's Road, to check out a suspect sauce that had been discovered by owner Nasir Iqbal.

"I received a list from the council on Wednesday showing all the contaminated food," said Mr Iqbal. "I went through it all and found this product, and took it off the shelves straight away and binned it."

His swift action on the 12 bottles of Crosse and Blackwell Worcester Sauce in stock won praise from the food experts.

"He wasn't sure, so he erred on the site of caution and threw it away, which is great. He did well to spot it," said Mr Derrick.

But other retailers were less decisive.

Bosses at a London Road newsagent had whipped all the Walkers Worcester Sauce crisps off their shelves after reading about the contamination scare - but had not seen a copy of the list to check other items.

"People know they have to do something, but they are not entirely sure what," said Mr Derrick.

"At the moment we are simply passing out the information and next week we will be carrying out spot checks."

At the Giddy Bridge Wetherspoons pub, about two crates of contaminated BBQ sauce had been identified and set aside - and Mr Derrick was impressed by the fact that the duty manager and the kitchen manager were aware of the crisis.

"If I had gone in and they looked at me blankly, I would have been worried," he said. "But an e-mail has been sent from head office and they seem to be on top of it."

Health bosses are giving retailers an informal prod to sort out the problem themselves, but if stores fail to take action, officers have the power to seize products - and even prosecute.

A letter sent to traders states: "The onus is on you to comply with this notification. Prosecution could follow where it is evident what warnings have been ignored."