Do you like your food a little spicy? How about with some insect parts and rodent hairs? According to a recent study, 12% of spices brought to the United States are contaminated with insect parts, whole insects, rodent hairs and other nasty things. It also showed that 7% of imported spices are contaminated with salmonella. Food and Drug Administration released the findings of this study earlier this week.
Spice makers argue that the spices are treated or cooked to remove bacteria by food producers or restaurants before they are used in foods and recipes, but the FDA says that isn't a good enough argument.
Michael Taylor, FDA's deputy commissioner for foods, says the agency is "not recommending that consumers stay away from spices." Spices that are added to foods that are already cooked are much more likely to be contaminated than spices that are added to food during preparations and before cooking. When the spices are cooked properly, bacteria and most other contaminates are no longer harmful.
The study also showed that spice makers know how to make spices safer and what precautions to take to make sure they spices are not contaminated, but the spice makers do not take these precautions. The FDA believes that better training for spice makers will make the spices safer for use.
25% of the spices that are imported into the United States come from India. The F.D.A. commissioner, Margaret A. Hamburg will be traveling to India to talk with spice makers and educate them on how to prevent contamination. Indian spice officials are also working with spice makers in India to make their spice safer and to make sure the proper precautions are being taken to ensure the safety of spice users.
Image from Wikimedia Commons.