So you like to spice things up. That’s good.
Spices make food taste better. They usually come with additional health benefits. They can help decrease sodium consumption.
But, according to the FDA, some imported spices are also full of harmful Salmonella, bacteria that causes over 1.2 million cases of food poisoning every year. Several hundred people die of Salmonella poisoning every year. The elderly and very young are especially susceptible. Spices imported from Mexico and India top the list of dangerous imports:
In a study of more than 20,000 food shipments, the food agency found that nearly 7 percent of spice lots were contaminated with salmonella, twice the average of all other imported foods. Some 15 percent of coriander and 12 percent of oregano and basil shipments were contaminated, with high contamination levels also found in sesame seeds, curry powder and cumin. Four percent of black pepper shipments were contaminated. Read more from the New York Times…
If you’re thinking that the solution is to stop buying imported spices, think again. Many spices are native to India and cannot grow in the US. And, there is no labeling requirement to indicate country of origin. Last year, 80% of the spices purchased in the US were of foreign origin.
The FDA is working with foreign governments on farming and processing practices that should increase the safety of the spices. It has also become more proactive in restricting imports from certain producers simply on suspicions of contamination.
What to do at home:
Don’t give up on spices. If you use them in cooked food, make sure to add the spices as the food is being cooked so that the heat will kill the pathogens.