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FSSAI likely to ask big manufacturers to test every batch of spices: Report

FSSAI had said that it would carry out random testing of spices and culinary herbs this year along with four other types of food products.
Last Updated : 12 May 2024, 09:24 IST
Last Updated : 12 May 2024, 09:24 IST

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Following the recalling of some popular Indian spice brands by Hong Kong and Singapore, India's food safety regulator—Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)—is contemplating to make sure all the batches of spices from the Indian markets are tested by their big manufacturers themselves, according to a report by Indian Express.

According to the publication, a senior government official who knows about the issue said, "It is still under discussion, but we are planning to mandate testing for each batch of spices - only for the big manufacturers. There are several vendors who process spices in small quantities and sell it locally, this move would not be applicable to them."

When asked about small manufacturers, the official said that testing every batch would be expensive and might become a cost burden for them, adding that small traders do not usually use fumigators like ethylene oxide.

According to Indian Express, the official said, "Fumigation of spices is costly and it is done by the big manufacturers to protect large stocks. Neither do smaller manufacturers need it, nor do they use it."

FSSAI had said that it would carry out random testing of spices and culinary herbs this year along with four other types of food products.

“Surveillance is planned in 2024-25 for fruit and vegetables, salmonella in fish products, spice and culinary herbs, fortified rice and milk and milk products,” the FSSAI had said in a statement released by the Union Health Ministry.

FSSAI has specific outlines of quality control and testing for fortified foods under which, every batch of spices will be checked thoroughly.

According to the publication, there is full vigilance over fortified foods items to check for active ingredients like calcium or iron, which are usually added to consumed food products that are imported.

According to Indian Express, the official said, "We have to ensure the safety and quality of the fortificants as well as the finished product. We have asked the importers of active ingredients, the manufacturer of fortificants (a substance prepared with the active ingredients that has to be added to the food), and the manufacturers of the final product to test it and sell it ahead only with a copy of the test. We have also asked the purchasers to not buy any of it without a valid testing certificate."

According to IE, the official also said that big producers of spice have already set up their own labs, using which they should be testing their products and attaching a copy of the report on the FSSAI portal.

A chemical called ethylene oxide used as a pesticide and fumigation agent was allegedly found to be above permissible levels in some spice mixes manufactured by MDH and Everest Food Products, even as the two companies denied using it.

Hong Kong and Singapore have banned the sale of MDH and Everest, the popular Indian spice brands, after carcinogenic pesticide ethylene oxide was allegedly found in numerous spice mixes.

The spices banned by the two countries are - MDH's Madras Curry Powder (spice blend for Madras curry), Everest Fish Curry Masala, MDH Sambhar Masala Mixed Masala Powder, and MDH Curry Powder Mixed Masala Powder.

Ethylene oxide is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and poses serious health risks, including an increased possibility of breast cancer.

A government source had said that FSSAI has started taking samples of spices in powder form of all brands, including MDH and Everest, from across the country in view of quality concerns flagged by Singapore and Hong Kong.

With PTI inputs

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Published 12 May 2024, 09:24 IST

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