Spice crisis: Contamination hits India’s global market - The Tribune India

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Spice crisis

Contamination hits India’s global market

Spice crisis

Photo for representational purpose only. - File photo



THE recent ban on Indian spices, imposed by Singapore, Hong Kong, Maldives, Australia, and Nepal due to alleged contamination of ethylene oxide (ETO) in products of popular brands MDH and Everest, could potentially reduce spice exports by up to 40 per cent, as warned by the Federation of Indian Spice Stakeholders. The presence of ETO, a toxic chemical, beyond permissible limits in spice mixes poses severe health risks, including cancer. This alarming development underscores the urgent need for India to enhance its food safety protocols and restore global confidence in its spice exports.

India’s pre-eminence as the world’s largest producer, consumer and exporter of spices is at stake. The country exports over $4 billion worth of spices annually, and its domestic market is valued at $10 billion. Yet, recurring quality concerns have dented this reputation, jeopardising a sector that significantly contributes to the economy. In 2014, lead was found in the food colouring used in spices like chili and curry powder. The US FDA has rejected 14.5 per cent of MDH spice shipments since 2021 due to bacterial contamination. Last month, authorities in Gujarat seized over 60,000 kg of adulterated spices.

Considering the serious health risks, it cannot be business as usual in the spice industry. The Indian government has responded with stricter quality controls, expanding inspections across manufacturing units. However, these steps must translate into tangible results and mitigation of further damage, for food quality affects everybody. People need reassurance that the spices they consume are safe. Nobody can be allowed to play with their health. Surprisingly, the government has failed to send out a message to consumers that the companies at fault are being scrutinised. They are left wondering whether they should consume spices. Transparent operations and proactive communication with international regulators are essential to safeguard our spice legacy.

#Australia #Maldives #Nepal


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