MDH, Everest – Sample testing center after Indian spice brands were banned in Hong Kong and Singapore

Government sources said that strict action will be taken if harmful substances are found in Indian spices.

New Delhi:

The government has ordered food commissioners to collect samples of spices from all manufacturing units in the country, after food regulators in Hong Kong and Singapore red-flagged a cancer-causing ingredient in certain products of two popular Indian spice brands, sources said. And Everest.

“All food commissioners of the country have been alerted. The process of collecting samples of spices has been initiated. The order has been issued. Within three to four days, samples will be collected from all spice manufacturing units in the country.” Senior government sources said.

“Not just MDH and Everest, samples will be taken from all spice manufacturing companies. The report will come from the lab in about 20 days,” they added.

What Hong Kong and Singapore said

Food regulators in Hong Kong and Singapore have warned people against using four products from these two spice brands due to the alleged presence of ethylene oxide “at levels exceeding the permissible limit.” Ethylene oxide has been classified as a “Group 1 carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Three MDH spice products – Madras Curry Powder (spice mix for Madras Curry), Sambhar Masala (mixed masala powder), and Curry Powder (mixed masala powder) – as well as Everest Fish Masala Curry contain “insecticide, ethylene oxide”. The Hong Kong Center for Food Safety (CFS) said on April 5. The regulatory body has instructed sellers to “stop selling and remove affected products from shelves.”

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Meanwhile, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) has also ordered the recall of Everest Fish Curry Masala due to the presence of ethylene oxide at levels “exceeding the permissible limit”. The SFA posted a statement on its website on April 18 in which it said it had “directed the importer, Sp Muthiah & Sons Pte. Ltd., to recall the products. The recall is ongoing.”

MDH and Everest Foods have not yet commented on these allegations.

'Strict measures will be taken'

There is a ban on the use of ethylene oxide in food items in India.

“Strict action will be taken if harmful substances are found in Indian spices. There is a provision regarding criminal action as well,” sources said.

The government appealed to the Spices Board of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to spread awareness about not adding any harmful elements to products.

Sources insisted that they were testing samples even before the incidents in Hong Kong and Singapore and claimed that “so far, no harmful elements have been found in spices of various brands available in the Indian market.”

“This is a continuous sampling process. This time we will take samples more quickly and in larger numbers than any we have taken before,” they said.

What is ethylene oxide?

The Spice Council defines ethylene oxide as “a colorless gas that is flammable at temperatures above 10.7°C.” It serves as “a disinfectant, fumigant, sterilizer, and insecticide.”

It is mainly used to sterilize medical equipment and reduce microbial contamination in spices.

Besides being produced from natural sources, it can also be produced from waterlogged soil, compost, and sewage sludge.

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Health effects of ethylene oxide

The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies ethylene oxide as a “Group 1 carcinogen,” meaning it has “sufficient evidence to conclude that it can cause cancer in humans.”

Short-term exposure to the carcinogen can affect the human central nervous system, causing depression and irritation of the eyes and mucous membranes, but long-term exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat and lungs, and damage the brain and nervous system. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

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