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Why Indian Spices are under the scanner?

ANM Desk

Indian spices controversy: In the foody world, spices reign supreme, adding depth, flavor, and tradition to dishes across the globe. However, recent revelations have cast a shadow over two prominent Indian spice makers, MDH and Everest, sparking concern among consumers and regulatory agencies alike.

Following Hong Kong’s decision to halt sales of certain MDH and Everest products due to alleged contamination with a cancer-causing pesticide, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stepped into the fray. With Hong Kong’s suspension of three MDH spice blends and an Everest spice mix, coupled with Singapore’s recall of Everest’s product over high levels of ethylene oxide, a potent carcinogen, the spotlight has turned sharply onto MDH and Everest- the renowned spice brands.

India, as the world’s leading producer, consumer, and exporter of spices, saw nearly ₹32,000 crore in exports in the 2022-23 fiscal year, highlighting the industry’s substantial scale and global impact.


Ban by Singapore: The Shockwave of Discovery

The tremors began in Singapore, where the Food Agency (SFA) issued a startling recall of Everest’s Fish Curry Masala. The reason? The presence of ethylene oxide, a prohibited pesticide known for its carcinogenic potential. This revelation sent ripples of concern across the globe, prompting consumers to question the safety of their beloved spice blends.

Ethylene oxide, commonly used as a sterilant in medical and industrial settings, poses a grave risk when present in food products. Its carcinogenic properties stem from its ability to form adducts with DNA, leading to mutations that can initiate cancer. Additionally, exposure to ethylene oxide can induce chromosomal aberrations, further compounding its threat to human health.


Ban by the USA: Salmonella Adds to the Spice Mix Dilemma

Across the Atlantic, the United States grapples with its own spice-related crisis. Refusal rates for shipments from MDH Pvt Ltd surged, doubling within a span of six months due to salmonella contamination. This escalation in rejection rates—from 15% to a staggering 31%—underscores the urgency of addressing safety concerns in the spice supply chain.

The presence of salmonella, a bacterium notorious for causing foodborne illness, compounds the challenges faced by regulatory authorities and spice manufacturers alike. Ensuring the safety of imported spice blends becomes not just a matter of culinary preference but a fundamental imperative for safeguarding public health.


The Stand of MDH: A Defiant Defense of Quality and Tradition

Amidst the storm of controversy, MDH emerges as a stalwart defender of tradition and quality. Confronted with accusations of pesticide contamination, the Indian spice giant vehemently refutes the claims, asserting its unwavering commitment to stringent standards of safety and authenticity.

MDH’s assertion that it does not use ethylene oxide at any stage of its spice production is backed by a robust quality assurance framework. The company emphasizes its adherence to health and safety protocols, both within India and on the international stage. Moreover, MDH underscores the absence of any communication from regulatory bodies in Hong Kong or Singapore regarding the alleged findings of pesticide contamination.


Ethylene Oxide: Peeling Back the Layers of Risk

As the controversy unfolds, a deeper examination of ethylene oxide’s carcinogenic potential becomes imperative. Recent research published in 2023 sheds light on the mechanisms underlying its cancer-causing properties, elucidating the risks posed by exposure to this potent compound.

The formation of DNA adducts and chromosomal aberrations serve as ominous reminders of ethylene oxide’s capacity to inflict genetic damage. These findings underscore the urgency of regulatory measures aimed at minimizing exposure and protecting public health. The evidence gleaned from scientific research forms the cornerstone of efforts to mitigate the risks associated with ethylene oxide contamination in food products.


The Spice Industry’s Global Impact: Balancing Tradition and Safety

In the crucible of controversy, the Indian spice industry finds itself at a crossroads, grappling with the delicate balance between tradition and safety. As the world’s leading producer, consumer, and exporter of spices, India wields considerable influence in shaping global culinary trends.

Yet, as the industry navigates the complexities of modern supply chains and regulatory frameworks, it faces a pivotal moment of reckoning. The need to uphold centuries-old traditions must be harmonized with the imperative for ensuring the safety and integrity of spice products.

In this world of spice commerce, the journey from farm to fork is fraught with challenges and uncertainties. The recent controversies surrounding MDH and Everest serve as stark reminders of the fragility of trust in the global food supply chain.

As consumers demand greater transparency and accountability, spice manufacturers are compelled to reassess their practices and redouble their efforts to uphold the highest standards of safety and quality. In this quest for culinary excellence, the spice of life must always be tempered with caution and diligence, ensuring that every pinch of spice adds not just flavor but also peace of mind.

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