INDIA- The Spice Board of India has announced factory inspections in two of the largest spice brands in India, Everest, and MDH, amid controversy and foreign bans following accusations of pesticide contamination.

Together, these two brands comprise 25% of India’s spice market. 

The inspections ensure that the brands meet global health standards, following recent restrictions imposed by Singapore, Hong Kong, and Nepal. 

In response to the controversy, the United States and Australia have also called for additional quality control measures. 

Media reports indicate that the bans were enacted after tests detected the presence of ethylene oxide, a substance used in pesticides. This substance, as per the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), significantly increases the risk of cancer, raising serious health concerns. 

This controversy poses significant challenges for the brands and the Indian spice market. The nonprofit research organization GTRI warns that Indian spice exports could be severely affected if China, a key importer, raises concerns or imposes restrictions on spice imports.

The Federation of Indian Spice Stakeholders (FISS) revealed that some buyers have already put spice orders on hold due to the controversy. 

The trade group predicts that exports could decrease by a staggering 40% if other major spice importers, such as China, impose similar restrictions. 

This would not only disrupt the global spice industry but also significantly impact India’s economy, as it accounts for 12% of global spice exports. 

A Reuters analysis of US import data showed that 14.5% of MDH exports to the US have been rejected since 2021. In April, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it was gathering information on the two spice makers after Hong Kong restricted sales. 

The UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) also announced in April that it would impose strict control measures on Indian spice imports. 

James Cooper, Deputy Director of Food Policy at the FSA, stated, “The use of ethylene oxide is not allowed here, and maximum residue levels are in place for herbs and spices. If there is any unsafe food on the market, the FSA will take rapid action to protect consumers.” 

However, both Everest and MDH have reiterated that their products are safe for human consumption. 

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