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FSSAI Clears MDH-Everest: No Ethylene Oxide Detected in Their Products; Other Brands Also Pass Sample Tests

In the wake of concerns over the safety of Indian spices, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has initiated an extensive examination campaign. Following thorough testing, the organization confirmed the presence of ethylene oxide (ETO) in the spices. Ethylene oxide is recognized as a potential carcinogen, raising serious health concerns.

The testing, which commenced on April 22, involved the examination of samples collected nationwide, including from manufacturing units of Everest in Maharashtra and Gujarat, as well as MDH units in Delhi, Haryana, and Rajasthan. 

Out of the 34 reports generated by a specially constituted scientific panel, 28 confirmed the absence of ethylene oxide. Results for the remaining six samples are pending. Over 300 samples from various other spice brands across the country were also collected, with none showing traces of ethylene oxide.

Ban Imposed on Spice Imports from Singapore and Hong Kong due to Ethylene Oxide Contamination

Ban Imposed on Spice Imports from Singapore and Hong Kong due to Ethylene Oxide Contamination

In April, reports emerged from Singapore and Hong Kong suggesting that certain MDH and Everest spice products contained higher-than-permissible levels of the pesticide ethylene oxide. Media reports indicated that both countries had imposed bans on some products from both companies.

The Food Safety Department of Hong Kong revealed that three spice mixes from the MDH group – Madras Curry Powder, Sambar Masala Powder, and Karhi Masala Powder – had elevated levels of ethylene oxide. Similar contamination was found in Everest’s Fish Curry Masala.

Following the controversy, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) initiated a nationwide inspection campaign on April 22. All spice manufacturers were instructed to submit samples for testing.

Ethylene Oxide: A Carcinogenic Substance

Ethylene oxide is a hazardous substance known to cause cancer. The Spice Board describes ethylene oxide as a colorless gas that becomes highly combustible at temperatures exceeding 10.7 degrees Celsius. It functions as a sterilant, fumigant, and pesticide agent, often employed to sterilize medical equipment and reduce microbial contamination in spices.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a division of the World Health Organization, categorizes ethylene oxide as a “Group 1 carcinogen,” indicating sufficient evidence of its carcinogenicity in humans. 

This classification implies that ethylene oxide has the potential to cause cancer and is considered a significant hazard to human health. Ethylene oxide exposure has been linked to lymphoma and leukemia, as well as cancers of the stomach and breast.

Why are Pesticides Used in Spices?

Spice manufacturers use pesticides primarily to protect food items from contamination by bacteria and fungi such as E. coli and Salmonella, which can reduce the shelf life of spices by causing spoilage. 

These microorganisms can lead to spoilage if left unchecked for extended periods, hence the use of pesticides as preservatives or sterilizing agents by these companies.

Government’s Claim: No Ban on Indian Spices in Hong Kong and Singapore

According to sources within the Indian government, on May 21, it was claimed that there were no bans on any Indian spices in Singapore and Hong Kong. 

These statements contradicted media reports, which suggested that only limited batches of popular spice brands like MDH and Everest had faced rejection.

Continuous Testing of Samples

Prior to recent incidents in Hong Kong and Singapore, continuous testing of samples has been ongoing in India. 

Sources claim that so far, no harmful substances have been found in the various brands of spices available in the Indian market. The process of sampling remains consistent and diligent.

Rahul Sharma

My name is Rahul Sharma. As a passionate writer and explorer, I'm always seeking inspiration in lifestyle, fashion, beauty, food & drink, and travel. With years of experience in the industry, I bring a unique perspective to my writing, blending my love for culture, style, and adventure.