FSSAI finds no ethylene oxide in samples of MDH, Everest spices in 28 lab reports

On 20 April, South First reported that Hong Kong’s food regulator CFS had identified that four products from spice brands MDH and Everest contained ethylene oxide.

BySumit Jha

Published May 22, 2024 | 10:59 AM Updated May 22, 2024 | 10:59 AM

FSSAI ethylene oxide

The food regulator FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) has not found any trace of ethylene oxide in spice samples of two major brands MDH and Everest that were tested in 28 accredited laboratories.

According to them, reports from six other laboratories are still pending.

Last month, the FSSAI started taking samples of spices in powder form of all brands, including MDH and Everest, from across the country in view of quality concerns flagged by Hong Kong and Singapore.

On 20 April, South First reported that Hong Kong’s food regulator Centre for Food Safety (CFS) had identified that four products from spice brands MDH and Everest contained the pesticide ethylene oxide, which is classified as a Group-1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

The food regulator of Hong Kong found that three products of MDH — Madras Curry Powder (spice blend for Madras Curry), Sambhar Masala Mixed Masala Powder, and Curry Powder Mixed Masala Powder — and Everest Fish Curry Masala contained the pesticide ethylene oxide.

Also Read: IIT-Madras researchers patent use of Indian spices to treat cancer

‘No traces of ETO’

A pan India drive was initiated on 22 April through all the commissioners of food safety of states and Union Territories and regional directors of FSSAI.

It included extensive inspections of the spice manufacturing units and also sampling and testing of products manufactured for sale and distribution for consumption in the domestic market.

According to PTI, sources said the samples of Everest spices were picked up from their two manufacturing facilities. They said as many as 25 samples from MDH have been lifted by FSSAI from their 11 manufacturing facilities.

Each of the products sampled was analysed for compliance with various quality and safety parameters including pesticide residues. These samples were also analysed for ethylene oxide (ETO) at NABL-accredited laboratories notified by FSSAI.

The laboratory reports received so far were examined by the scientific panel at FSSAI and observed that the samples showed no traces of ethylene oxide, sources said.

Similarly, test reports of over 300 samples of spices of other brands were also examined by the scientific panel and those also conclusively indicated no presence of ethylene oxide, they added.

The scientific panel comprises eminent scientists from the Spice Board, CSMCRI (Gujarat), Indian Spice Research Institute (Kerala), NIFTEM (Haryana), BARC (Mumbai), CMPAP (Lucknow), DRDO (Assam), ICAR, National Research Centre on Grapes, (Pune).

The Spice Board has also issued guidelines to the spice exporters for using ETO as a fumigant for sterilising spices to deal with microbial contamination as per the standards of importing countries, sources said.

What is ethylene oxide? Why is it being used in products?

Ethylene oxide is a colourless and flammable gas that is commonly used as a pesticide, sterilant, and fumigant in various industries, including agriculture, healthcare, and food processing.

In the context of food products, ethylene oxide is sometimes utilised as a fumigant to control microbial contamination and pests in spices and other dry food items.

Its use in food products primarily aims to extend shelf life by eliminating bacteria, fungi, and insects that can cause spoilage or contamination.

However, ethylene oxide is a highly reactive compound, classified as a carcinogen by various health organisations. Prolonged exposure to ethylene oxide has been linked to adverse health effects, including respiratory issues, skin irritation, and increased cancer risk.

Due to its potential health risks, many countries have established strict regulations governing the use of ethylene oxide in food products, setting maximum residue limits to ensure consumer safety.

Also Read: High levels of ethion in popular powdered spices sold in Kerala

(With PTI inputs)

(Edited by Sumavarsha Kandula)