The Kitchen Think: Is Your Spice Rack Contaminated?

3 years ago

Herbs & Spices

Just as we’re all about to roll up our sleeves and start our holiday cooking and baking, the Food and Drug Administration says 12 percent of the spices brought into the U.S. are contaminated with insects, rodent hairs, and who knows what else.

Please… don’t pass the pepper.

The FDA took a hard look at the safety of spice imports and also discovered that 7 percent were contaminated with the toxic bacteria salmonella (particularly in pepper, sesame seeds, and oregano).

The FDA’s report on imported spices says Mexico and India had the highest amount of contamination. Most of the problems originated in the processing and storage of the spices, not harvesting. One- quarter of the spices, food colorings and oils used in the U.S. come from India.

Image: Trophygeek via Flickr

So, what steps can you take to protect your family?

  • Thorough cooking will take care of the potential for salmonella poisoning, but won’t get rid of the bits of insects, rat fur, and other detritus the FDA labels "filth."
  • Another idea is to buy your spices from reputable spice companies. I like The Spice House, Frontier Herbs or Mountain Rose Herbs. They tell you exactly where the spices originated so you can make an informed decision as to whether to purchase. Meanwhile, some bigger companies like McCormick & Co. are saying that they conduct independent testing and perform their own cleaning after spices are imported.
  • I think that the BEST solution is to buy whole, preferably certified organic, spices (like black pepper, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.) from a reputable spice company, wash them yourself, and grind them at home with an electric grinder. A lot of work, I agree, and not really practical... not to mention expensive.

Now, it's up to you. Will the FDA's report change how you cook this holiday season?

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