The Ministry of Health has warned New Zealanders not to use soy sauce after a British survey found almost one in four bottles contained high levels of potentially cancer-causing chemicals.

The survey, by the British Food Standards Agency, sampled 100 soy sauce products and found 22 with levels of a chemical called 3-McPD that were well above a limit to be introduced in the European Union next April.

Two-thirds of these samples also contained a second chemical, 1,3-DCP, which is also likely to cause cancer if consumed over a long period.

The affected sauces, which are being removed from sale in Britain, were imported from Thailand, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The 11 brands involved were Lee Kum Kee, Pearl River Bridge, Sinsin, Golden Mountain, King Imperial, Jammy Chai, Wanjashan, Golden Mark, Golden Swan, Tung Chun, and Kimlan.

At least three of these brands, Lee Kum Kee, Pearl River Bridge and Sinsin, sell sauces in New Zealand.

The three brands between them accounted for 10 of the 22 products named in the study.

Lee Kum Kee, which had five sauces listed, says it has changed its manufacturing procedures and its products are now safe.

Last night, the Ministry of Health in Wellington said it did not know whether affected batches of the products had been imported into New Zealand.

"We expect to have that information early next week," said Director-General of Health Karen Poutasi.

"In the interim our advice to the public is to avoid consuming soy sauce and associated products such as oyster-flavoured sauce and marinades that include soy sauce."

Dr Poutasi said the British authority's view was that occasional consumers of these products were unlikely to suffer harm.

"We are more concerned about people who have high levels of consumption, as they will be most at risk from the harmful effects of these chemicals if they are contained in soy sauce products on sale here."

Both 3-MCPD and 1,3-DCP can occur in soy sauce during the manufacturing process, although the British Food Standards Agency said this was avoidable.

Dr Poutasi said the ministry and the Australia New Zealand Food Authority would decide the extent of action in both countries.

There is no set limit for the two chemicals in New Zealand foods.

Lee Kum Kee issued a statement on its website rejecting the claims in the British study.

A spokesman said samples identified in the FSA reports were all products made before the company introduced new procedures in 1999.

The global food manufacturer said it was in full compliance with all regulatory standards.