The Spices Board Creates Guidelines for Exporters to Avoid ETO Contamination

In response to quality concerns raised by certain countries regarding products shipped from India, the Spices Board has released detailed guidelines for exporters to prevent the contamination of ethylene oxide (ETO), a cancer-causing chemical.

As per the guidelines, exporters should avoid using ETO in spices for sterilization or fumigation purposes, as well as in any other applications. They should also ensure that transporters, storage facilities, warehouses, and packaging material suppliers do not use this chemical at any point.

The absence of ETO and its metabolites in spices and spice products should be ensured by exporters throughout the supply chain, according to the statement.

Additionally, they should recognize ETO as a potential hazard and include critical control points in their Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points and Food Safety Plan within their Food Safety Management System to prevent its presence.

The guidelines, which span nine pages, state that exporters must conduct tests on raw materials, processing aids, packaging materials, and finished goods to check for contamination by ETO.

If ETO is detected at any point in the supply chain, exporters are required to conduct a root cause analysis and put in place suitable preventive measures to prevent future occurrences. Additionally, exporters must maintain records of these actions.

To ensure safety, individuals are advised to utilize alternative sterilization methods such as steam sterilization, irradiation, and other techniques approved by the food regulator FSSAI. These recommendations were advised by the recent bans imposed by Hong Kong and Singapore on the sale of well-known brands MDH and Everest.

The bans were a result of the detection of the carcinogenic chemical ethylene oxide in their products, leading to a compulsory removal of these items from store shelves.

The establishment will not accept spices, herbs, or their source plants that are known to contain microbial contaminants that cannot be reduced to acceptable levels through standard processing, sorting, or preparation methods.

To ensure the elimination of mycotoxins like aflatoxins, it is necessary to carefully discard spices and herbs that display signs of pest damage, infestation, or mold growth. The text also mentions that before processing, the raw materials will be inspected for foreign matter, odor, appearance, and visible mold contamination. If necessary, they will be cleaned and sorted.

Guidelines for Exporters, Spice Board

To prevent cross-contamination of spices and herbs, it is important to take effective measures at all stages of processing. Raw products that may pose a hazard should be processed in separate areas from where end-products are prepared or stored. During packaging, non-porous bags or containers should be used to protect against contamination, moisture, and infestation.

It is recommended to use new bags or containers for food contact packaging and to avoid spraying spices and herbs with water to prevent mold and pathogens. Before transportation, products should be dried to a safe moisture level and vehicles must be clean, dry, odor-free, and free from infestation to prevent cross-contamination.

Additionally, it is recommended to take precautions during transportation to prevent contact with water or moisture and to safeguard against pests or refuse contaminating the product. Spices tend to rapidly absorb moisture if the packaging becomes wet, leading to a significant rise in moisture levels.

To ensure the safe transportation of products that have a longer transit time, it is important to monitor temperature and humidity levels using properly calibrated devices, when necessary. In the fiscal year 2023-24, India’s spice exports reached a total of USD 4.25 billion, representing a 12 percent share of the global spice exports.

India’s top spice exports in 2023 included chili powder at USD 1.3 billion, 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 Indian spice exports were asafoetida, saffron, anise, nutmeg, mace, clove, and cinnamon. The global spice trade in 2023 was valued at USD 35 billion, with China leading as the top exporter with USD 8 billion in exports.


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