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Indian food is incomplete without the addition of masala powders and spices, but there is a red alert for wide spread chemical contamination in it.

A recent study in the journal Food Microbiology shows India, which is the top exporter of spices to the US, to be rated second among the 37 countries from where contaminated spices are sent to the US.

Here are some of the causes of contamination of spices and masalas in India:

Harmful chemical residues found in Masala powders and Spices

According to studies conducted by Pesticide Residue Research and Analysis Laboratory under Kerala Agricultural University, spices like coriander, dried ginger powder, dried red chilli, cardamom, cumin powder, pickle powder, garam masala, curd chilli, chilli powder, fennel seeds, Kashmiri chilli powder, rasam powder, and curry powder available in the market are laced with toxic chemicals.

Out of the 285 samples of spices, masala powders and processed food collected from supermarkets in Kerala, 38 samples of 14 items had contaminants exceeding the permitted limits prescribed by the European Union. While nine samples of five items were found to have contaminants below the prescribed EU standards, 48 samples of 13 items were found to be safe.

Endosulfan residue was found in samples of coriander, samples of jeera were found to be contaminated with dangerous pesticides such as chlorpyrifos, ethion, malathion, methyl parathion, and profenofos. Dried chilly had residue from chlorpyrifos, sypermethrin, lambda syhalothrin, and cunalfos.

Indian food is incomplete without the addition of masala powders and spices and red chilli, but with this menace of contamination of spices, it can become a health hazard if consumed daily.

Toxic Arsenic found in Organic Turmeric

Indian cooking is incomplete without the use of turmeric or haldi, and if you pay a bomb for organic turmeric, it better be completely chemical-fee. But a recent Consumer Education and Research Centre (CERC) study found presence of heavy metals beyond the safe limits in leading brands of organic turmeric powder.

CERC tested six popular national organic turmeric powder brands for safety, namely lead, copper, tin, zinc, cadmium, arsenic and mercury. Of the six brands tested, none were found to have chemicals, or lead or tin. Mercury and cadmium were within limits, but copper and arsenic were found in the organic spices. Exposure to long term exposure to arsenic in food may cause cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc.

US FDA finds Indian exported spices contaminated

The FDA reported 12% of spices imported into the United States were contaminated with insect parts, whole insects, rodent hairs etc., according to an analysis of spice imports by federal food authorities.

American authorities also found nearly 7% spice imports to be contaminated with salmonella, a toxic bacteria that can cause severe illness.

Spice imports from India and Mexico were found to have the highest rate of contamination. Nearly one-quarter of the spices, oils and food colourings used in the United States comes from India, according to the F.D.A.

The F.D.A. commissioner, Margaret A. Hamburg, wanted to visit India to meet with the spice industry officials to discuss the agency’s concerns about spice safety. Indian spice officials were offering incentives to get farmers to change their traditional harvest and handling practices which were possibly lead to contamination.


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