The Dangers Lurking in Your Spice Rack

Spices from India

photo: KissMyDiet

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.

  • Ciaran

    Great, something *else* to worry about. I swear, we’re becoming a nation of basket cases.

  • Alyssa B

    This article seems unnecessary and just creates something else to worry about, like Ciaran said below. I’d rather hear about nutrition, food additives and what shady things food companies are up to.

    • Fooducate

      We bring you information as we learn about it.
      You can decide if you want to worry or not.
      You’re welcome.

      • trixietime

        Alyssa and Ciaran made valid points, in a respectful way. When something ominous like that is put forth, with really no solution, then it’s not very worthwhile (it just seems alarmist.) The majority of us want to focus on positive things we can do with our nutrition. Oh, and “you’re welcome” when no one had thanked you, comes off somewhat snarky for a professional product blog.

        • David

          And if someone you loved became ill as a result, you’d whine about no one telling you about the possibility. There was a potential solution offered… Cook your spices with your meal.

          • Karla Pierce Singer

            I agree David, It is their job to report to us what they find that they feel we need to know, so, take what you want and leave what you don’t…..AND THANK YOU FOODUCATE FOR TELLING US OF A POTENTIAL DANGER WHERE WE WOULD NEVER THINK TO LOOK!!!!!

  • EKK

    Yes, it is frustrating to learn about a problem that doesn’t have real solution, but being informed is never bad, especially about food safety. I see this information as being particularly useful to someone cooking for a patient with a compromised immune system. So, Hemi, thank you!

  • dj

    I, for one, found the article helpful. It made us aware of a very real possibility, and offered a solution, cook your spices with your food. Perhaps I am naive, but It wouldn’t have occurred to me that these herbs and spices were a potential source of salmonella. Thanks for the heads up!

  • Red

    What about organic spices?

    • Don Knowles

      With them you get organic salmonella