Spice brands to halt sales after failed tests, Rajasthan govt begins recalling batches

FSSAI tested over 4,000 spice samples, and from reports of 2,000 samples, 100 contained excessive pesticide levels

Representative image
Representative image

NH Digital

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has asked some spice brands to stop the sale of certain batches of their products after receiving adverse lab reports. The food safety authority initiated a pan-India sampling and exhaustive testing drive of various spice brands on 22 April.

“Over 4,000 samples of spices were picked up as part of the pan-India testing drive. We have received lab reports for about 2,000 samples. About 100 of them failed on certain parameters such as pesticides. These food business operators have been asked to stop the sale of the batches of their products that failed the tests,” said officials.

Indian spice brands were scrutinised by FSSAI as well as some international regulators. In April, Hong Kong suspended sales of three spice blends produced by MDH and one by Everest, saying they contained high levels of a cancer-causing pesticide made with ethylene oxide (ETO).

Recently, Rajasthan officials flagged concerns about pesticides found in higher-than-permissible levels in samples of some spice brands, including Everest and MDH.

The state told the Central government in a letter that it found a batch of Everest's cumin powder and a batch each of two MDH spice blends unsafe after tests. Senior state health official Shubhra Singh said "Rajasthan has started recalling ...only the impugned batches are being recalled".

As per procedure, these brands can appeal the decision and request the samples to be retested at a referral laboratory notified by FSSAI.

After Hong Kong's move in April, Singapore had also ordered a recall of the Everest mix. New Zealand, the United States and Australia have said they were looking into the issue. Britain has applied extra controls on all spices entering from India, the world's biggest exporter, producer and consumer of spices.

In May, FSSAI said that 28 of 34 lab reports showed no traces of ETO. Sources said no traces of ETO were found in the remaining six lab reports, too. These samples were also tested for pesticide residues, metal contaminants, and biological, physical and chemical parameters.

India's domestic market for spices was valued at $10.44 billion in 2022, according to Zion Market Research.

In May, the Federation of Indian Spice Stakeholders (FISS) said India's spice export may decline nearly 40 per cent in FY25 if the issue of ETO contamination in spices meant for exports is not addressed at the earliest.

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