US spices body offers clarity as ban on Indian products sparks concerns | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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US spices body offers clarity as ban on Indian products sparks concerns

May 10, 2024 03:17 PM IST

The American Spice Trade Association clarified that the FDA and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have deemed consumption of spices treated with EtO as safe.

The American Spice Trade Association (ASTA) has asserted that ethylene oxide (EtO) is permitted for use on spices in the United States and plays a critical role in ensuring compliance with food safety standards.

India is the world's biggest exporter, producer and consumer of spices, and its domestic market for the products was valued at $10.44 billion in 2022, according to Zion Market Research.(Freepik)
India is the world's biggest exporter, producer and consumer of spices, and its domestic market for the products was valued at $10.44 billion in 2022, according to Zion Market Research.(Freepik)

Hong Kong and Singapore imposed a ban last month on the sale of four spices-mix products of Indian brands MDH and Everest for allegedly containing pesticide 'ethylene oxide' beyond permissible limits, sparking concerns regarding food safety regulations.

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Read: Australia to ban MDH, Everest spices? Regulator ‘assesses alleged contamination'

Offering clarity on the matter, the US spice industry body, in a letter to the Spices Board of India, stressed that ethylene oxide is an approved antimicrobial fumigant in the United States, with established tolerances for EtO and its byproduct ethylene chlorohydrin/2 chloroethanol (ECH) set at 7 ppm and 940 ppm, respectively, for herbs and spices (excluding basil).

“Ethylene oxide is currently permitted for use on spices in the U.S. and prohibiting this critical treatment method has the potential to result in serious unintended implications regarding compliance of Indian spices with U.S. food safety regulations,” it said.

“Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have concluded that consumption of spices treated with EtO is safe,” it added.

Read: MDH rejects allegations of cancer-causing pesticide in its spices: ‘Baseless’

The scrutiny surrounding ethylene oxide contamination has broader implications for India's spice industry, which holds a significant position in the global market. With India being the world's largest exporter, producer, and consumer of spices, the potential repercussions of stringent regulatory measures are substantial.

The Spices Board says India exported spice products worth $4 billion in 2022-23.

A report by the Global Trade Research Initiative, a New Delhi-based think tank, warned that rising global scrutiny could jeopardize over half of India's spice exports, particularly if other countries follow suit with bans or restrictions similar to those imposed by Hong Kong and Singapore.

If China decides to implement similar measures as other countries, Indian spice exports could see a "dramatic downturn", the report said.

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