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UK Tightens Control Over Imports Of Indian Spices Amidst Contamination Allegations

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Following claims of contamination against two brands that alarmed international food regulators, Britain’s food watchdog announced on Wednesday that it has implemented additional control procedures on all spice imports from India.

This is the first time that the watchdog has increased its examination of all Indian spices. Sales of three MDH and one Everest spice blend were halted in Hong Kong last month after it was discovered that they contained high concentrations of ethylene oxide, a pesticide known to cause cancer. Additionally, Singapore issued an order for the Everest mix to be recalled, and subsequently, New Zealand, the US, India, and Australia have stated that they are investigating possible problems between the two brands.

Two of the most well-known companies in India, MDH and Everest, have declared their goods to be safe for ingestion. The UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) announced that it had “applied extra control measures for pesticide residues in spices from India, which includes ethylene oxide” in response to the concerns, marking the most severe crackdown to date on all Indian spices.

“Herbs and spices have maximum residue levels in place, and the use of ethylene oxide is not allowed here,” James Cooper, the FSA’s deputy director of food policy, told Reuters in a statement. India is the world’s largest producer, consumer, and exporter of spices.

Data from the Observatory of Economic Complexity website indicates that in 2022, Britain imported spices worth $128 million, with India contributing over $23 million of that total. Products from MDH and Everest are exported to the United States, Europe, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Australia, among other places. Additionally, samples of MDH and Everest goods were examined by Indian officials, who also tested all spice products. However, the results have not yet been made public.

According to a Reuters examination of US FDA data, MDH has had an average of 14.5% of its exports to the United States denied since 2021 due to the presence of salmonella bacteria.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency informed Reuters in a statement on Wednesday that it “continues to monitor the situation” and that it was aware of the concerns regarding MDH and Everest’s goods.

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