Concerns Mount Over Cancer-causing Elements in Indian Packaged Spices

Concerns Mount Over Cancer-causing Elements in Indian Packaged Spices

May 2, 2024 Off By Sharp Media

Recent revelations regarding carcinogenic elements found in packaged spices from leading Indian manufacturers MDH and Everest have sparked regulatory scrutiny in several countries, reigniting concerns over food safety standards and the export practices of India’s spice industry. This development comes barely a year after cough syrups manufactured in India were implicated in the tragic deaths of over 140 children in Africa.

According to the reports, countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and the US are contemplating investigations into the packaged spices produced by MDH and Everest following red flags raised by Hong Kong authorities regarding their quality.

This is not the first instance of such issues plaguing these major Indian spice companies. In 2023, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered a recall of Everest spice mixes, and in 2019, certain MDH products were recalled due to salmonella contamination.

The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) in Hong Kong disclosed on April 5 that it detected ethylene oxide (ETO), a pesticide known to cause cancer in large amounts, in three types of packaged spices from MDH and one from Everest. Prompt action was taken, with the products swiftly removed from shelves and recalled by the CFS.

Responding to the alarm raised by Hong Kong, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) followed suit, recalling Everest’s Fish Curry Masala product. The SFA urged consumers who had purchased the product to refrain from consumption, emphasizing the potential health risks associated with ETO exposure over the long term.

India’s Spice Board, tasked with overseeing spice exports, highlighted the variation in ETO limits across different countries, ranging from 0.02 milligrams per kilogram in places like the UK and Norway to 7 milligrams per kilogram in Canada and the US.

The prevalence of pesticides in Indian agriculture is a widespread issue, often resulting in trace amounts being found in food products. Government estimates indicate a significant increase in the cultivated area using chemical pesticides, reaching 108,216 hectares by fiscal year 2023, a 33.4% rise from fiscal year ending March 2019. This expansion contrasts sharply with the relatively limited cultivation area utilizing biopesticides in the same period.

The latest scrutiny on Indian packaged spices underscores the urgent need for stringent quality control measures and adherence to international food safety standards within the country’s spice industry. The recurrence of such incidents not only poses risks to consumer health but also undermines the reputation of Indian spice exports on the global stage.

As investigations unfold and regulatory actions are taken, it is imperative for Indian authorities to address the root causes of contamination and ensure that robust safeguards are in place to prevent similar incidents in the future. Additionally, closer collaboration between regulatory bodies and industry stakeholders is essential to restoring trust and upholding the integrity of India’s spice trade.