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US bats trade ethylene-treated spices in hot weather to Indian companies

“Specifically, the final rule on preventive controls for human foods requires U.S. companies to implement an approved elimination step to control the risk of foodborne pathogens known to occur in spices, including salmonella and E. coli,” it said. The US Environmental Protection Agency states that consuming EtO-treated spices is “safe”, while the FDA has concluded that exposure to EtO residues resulting from the consumption of spices does not pose a “cancer problem”.

Imports also must undergo an approved killing step, such as EtO, before being sold in the US. According to ASTA, spices that do not pass the approved killing stage before importation into the U.S. will be considered “not ready to eat” and must be labeled with the statement “not processed to control microbiological hazards.” “Replacing EtO with alternative methods would require costly and time-consuming validation studies to ensure compliance with FDA regulations while maintaining quality standards.”

Both Everest and MDH have previously stated that their spices are “safe” for consumption. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India is currently reviewing the quality standards of both companies. The scientific panel investigating the matter is expected to submit a detailed report on May 31.

The Spices Board of India, the government’s regulator for spice exports, said it was working with companies to find the “root cause” of the alleged contamination as inspections began at their plants. It also issued guidance to exporters advising them against using EtO as a sterilizing agent to reduce microbial contamination of spice shipments. It has been suggested to switch to alternatives such as steam sterilization and irradiation.

A report by the Global Trade Research Initiative warns that increased global scrutiny could threaten more than half of India’s $4 billion worth of spice exports, especially if other countries implement bans or restrictions similar to those imposed by Hong Kong and Singapore. If the European Union and China – under the influence of actions in Hong Kong and Singapore – decide to reject shipments of Indian spices due to quality issues, India’s spice exports could see a “dramatic deterioration in economic conditions”, the think tank said.