Several steps taken to prevent EtO contamination in spices exported from India: Official

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India has taken several steps to prevent EtO (ethylene oxide), a carcinogenic chemical, contamination in spices exported from India, a senior government official said on Wednesday. The steps were taken following the reports on recall of products from two Indian spice brands in Singapore and Hong Kong due to presence of EtO residue in certain spices of Indian brands MDH and Everest. “The Spices Board has taken steps to ensure the safety and quality of Indian spice exports to these regions,” Additional Secretary in the Commerce Ministry Amardeep Singh Bhatia told reporters here. The board has made it mandatory to test such consignments destined to these two countries. A techno-scientific committee has also conducted a root cause analysis, inspected processing facilities, and collected samples for testing in accredited labs. “In response to the committee’s recommendations, mandatory sampling and testing for EtO residues has been implemented for all spice shipments to Singapore and Hong Kong starting May 7, 2024,” he said, adding that guidelines for EtO treatment have also been reiterated to all exporters. He added that India has also taken up with the CODEX committee for setting up limits for EtO usage as different countries has different limits. Also, there is no standard for EtO testing. India has proposed for that. To develop and expand worldwide standards for spices and culinary herbs, and to consult with other international organisations in the standards development process, CCSCH (Codex Committee on Spices and Culinary Herbs) was formed in 2013 with support of over 100 countries. In food products, there are a certain degree of failure of samples that happen and India’s sample failure is less than 1 per cent. The Spices Board has come out with comprehensive guidelines for exporters to prevent ethylene oxide contamination in the products shipped from India amid quality concerns being flagged by certain countries on these goods. In 2023-24, India’s spice exports totalled USD 4.25 billion, accounting for a 12 per cent share of the global spice exports. The major spices exported from India included chilli powder, which topped the list with USD 1.3 billion in exports, followed by cumin at USD 550 million, turmeric at USD 220 million, cardamom at USD 130 million, mixed spices at USD 110 million, and spice oils and oleoresins at USD 1 billion. Other notable exports were asafoetida, saffron, anise, nutmeg, mace, clove, and cinnamon.

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