FSSAI to check quality of spices, herbs this year | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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FSSAI to check quality of spices, herbs this year

By, New Delhi
Apr 30, 2024 06:40 AM IST

The announcement comes after Hong Kong and Singapore recently banned import of four India-made packaged spice mixes

India’s food regulator will check spices and culinary herbs for quality this year, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India said in a generic statement on Monday, a move seemingly triggered by some countries banning packaged spice mixes made in India as they were found to contain carcinogenic chemicals.

New Delhi, India - Nov. 21, 2016: A view of whole sale Khari Baoli Market after Demonisation 1000rs and 500rs Indian currency, according to the shopkeeper 20% selling their products spices, nuts, herbs and food products like rice and tea. in market. ,in New Delhi, India, on Monday, November 21, 2016. (Photo by Raj K Raj/ Hindustan Times) (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)
New Delhi, India - Nov. 21, 2016: A view of whole sale Khari Baoli Market after Demonisation 1000rs and 500rs Indian currency, according to the shopkeeper 20% selling their products spices, nuts, herbs and food products like rice and tea. in market. ,in New Delhi, India, on Monday, November 21, 2016. (Photo by Raj K Raj/ Hindustan Times) (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)

The announcement comes after Hong Kong and Singapore recently banned import of four India-made packaged spice mixes that contained ethylene oxide, a chemical used as a pesticide but is also found to be significantly carcinogenic.

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“A number of pan-India surveillances on various food products are carried out by FSSAI in order to assess the compliance status of implemented regulations,” the regulator said. “The number has expanded over the years. In 2024-2025, surveillance is planned on the following food items: fruit and vegetables; salmonella in fish products; spice and culinary herbs; fortified rice; milk and milk products.”

The food regulator made no mention of ethylene oxide in its statement. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified ethylene oxide as a Group 1 carcinogen, which can cause cancer in humans.

In Hong Kong, out of the four failed products, three belonged to the MDH brand and one by Everest. MDH products Madras Curry Powder, distributed by Dhillon Group of Companies Ltd, and Sambhar Masala Mixed Masala Powder and Curry Powder Mixed Masala Powder imported by AGAM Trading Co, were banned. The Everest product that failed the quality test was Fish Curry Masala imported and distributed by MPS Foods (HK) Ltd.

Singapore’s food safety department issued a recall for Fish Curry Masala manufactured by spice maker Everest due to the high presence of ethylene oxide.

Separately, there appeared to be hundreds of instances where European Union nations had detected ethylene oxide in masala products imported from India. First posted by X user @SudiptoDoc, the detections are detailed in the European Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF). When HT queried the site on Monday, there were 29 instances in 2023 when ethylene oxide or its reaction product 2-chloroethanol was detected by multiple EU nations in shipments of products like garam masala, cumin seeds, turmeric and ayurvedic supplements.

Other red-flagged products shipped from India included those with included aflatoxins, mycotoxins, nitrofurans, salmonella, chlorpyriphos, anthraquinone, cadmium, mineral oil, mercury and multiple other hazardous contaminants with potentially serious health risks.

India’s food regulator has not responded to queries regarding the steps it has taken to address the presence of ethylene oxide. The statement issued on Monday only mentioned generic steps the FSSAI takes to enforce standards.

“The Food Authority lays down science-based standards for articles of foods with the support of its subsidiary bodies, namely, Scientific Panels and the Scientific Committee established under Section 13 and 14, respectively, of the FSS Act, and other Working Groups that may be set up by the Scientific Committee from time to time,” it said on Monday.

The number of samples analysed during the past few years have grown from 108,000 lakh in 2020-21 to 450,000 in 2023-24, the FSSAI stated, adding that the responsibility of taking action depended on state governments.

“90 percent of the Food Business Operators fall under the Jurisdiction of the state governments,” it said. “Enforcement of the provisions of the Act to a large extent rest with the state governments. Adjudicating officers involved in all the violations mentioned above are under the State Government Authority. Criminal cases are filed at District Level Courts.”

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