Are Indian Spices Slipping in Quality Control?


As per the Spices Board of India the domestic spice market alone is valued at an astounding $10 billion, positioning India as the world’s largest consumer of spices. With over 200 spices and value-added products exported to approximately 180 countries, India has undeniably risen as a global spice powerhouse, with exports totalling $4 billion. What’s at stake here is of monumental value, one is the sheer economic worth of spices exports and second, and undeniably the most important, is the reputation of the country’s exports. Let’s unravel this latest controversy propped up against one of India’s key exports.

India, celebrated globally as a spice powerhouse, is now confronting mounting concerns regarding the safety of its esteemed spice exports. In the recent past, Singapore and Hong Kong suspended sales of select spices from Indian brands MDH and Everest due to suspected elevated levels of ethylene oxide (EtO), a cancer-causing pesticide. Furthermore, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has initiated investigations into products from these brands for potential pesticide contamination. Analysis by Reuters reveals that since 2021, an average of 14.5 per cent of US shipments of MDH spices were rejected due to bacterial presence. Despite these challenges, both brands assert the safety of their products. The European Union (EU) has also sounded the alarm after detecting ethylene oxide in samples of Indian chilli peppers and peppercorns. Similar concerns have prompted regulatory investigations in the Maldives, Bangladesh, and Australia. Nepal on May 18 banned the sale and import of certain spice-mix products manufactured by Indian brands over alleged quality concerns. Four spice-mix products by MDH and Everest were banned in the Himalayan nation due to suspected ethylene oxide or EtO contamination, according to the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control in Nepal. This controversy is particularly unsettling given the stature of the affected brands. MDH, a 105-year-old

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