FDA Finds Spices From India Contaminated With Rodent and Insect Filth



New York Times reports that a study by the FDA found that more than 12% of US spice imports are contaminated with insect and rodent parts/filth.  This news should be shocking to any foodie, but as a vegetarian I find this exceedingly repulsive.  The FDA must exercise the strength of its powers to ensure that food safety is practiced by the growers and importers.

The unfortunate situation of having to consume contaminated spices stems from the common practice of purchasing ground up spices rather than buying whole spices.  In the old days, must of the spice trade used to occur in whole spices.  Families would by whole "dhaniya" (cilantro seeds) or whole "mirchi" (pepper) etc and take them home where the spices would be closely examined and cleaned before being ground up.  This practice extended to other edible grains like "gehun" (wheat for flour "ata") and pulses like "dal" (lentils), "chana" (grams) etc.  Today, despite the widespread availability of small portable mills, it is difficult to enjoy the benefits of clean food for lack of time and extreme difficulty of finding whole grain in Western countries.

Whole Foods and a few other vendors do sell some whole grain.  But the trade is nothing compared to the whole grains and whole spices trade to be found in old motherland like India and Iran.  So, even if you wanted to care for your family health and buy whole grain and spices, chances are that you are unlikely to be successful, if you live in the United States.

FDA has mandated insect content for the flour manufacturers in the US.  When I first found out about this in my food microbiology class decades ago, I was horrified.  But at that time we used to bring home whole grain and get it milled after cleaning it.  Today since the possibility of milling grains and whole spices is minimal, I view those standards as a better of the evil of eating spices and flour manufactured by businesses who do not maintain such standards to those who do follow those standards.

Perhaps some organization will recognize the value of this and leverage it for creating a differentiated product.  I wouldn't mind paying a little extra for spices that are stamped with a seal of approval from an organization that monitors the insect and rodent filth and only approves those that meet the threshold set by the FDA for clean and safe food fit for human consumption.
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