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FSSAI silent spectator as international bans continue to hit MDH and Everest spices

FSSAI silent spectator as international bans continue to hit MDH and Everest spices

Indian consumers continue to buy ‘contaminated’ spices

FSSAI silent spectator as international bans continue to hit MDH and Everest spices

Hong Kong and Singapore banned the sale of MDH and Everest

While global food safety organizations quickly banned MDH and Everest spices due to the alleged presence of ethylene oxide, India’s food safety body specializing in pesticides, FSSAI, has remained conspicuously silent.

More than a month after banning the sale of certain products of renowned Indian spice brands MDH and Everest, first in Hong Kong, then in Singapore and the Maldives, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI ) has not yet taken a clear position on the subject. controversy – neither by issuing a net score to popular products, nor by banning them in India.

On April 22, the FSSAI had simply indicated that it would test the products in question from the two companies. But more than a fortnight after this declaration, the FSSAI is yet to make the test results public.

FSSAI silent spectator as international bans continue to hit MDH and Everest spices

FSSAI silent spectator as international bans continue to hit MDH and Everest spices

Despite the weeks that have passed, FSSAI’s tests remain incomplete, leaving Indian consumers in a state of uncertainty.

On April 5, the Food Safety Center of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region conducted routine tests on these spices. They found excessive levels of ethylene oxide in Madras curry powder, mixed masala powder and MDH sambhar masala. A similar problem was discovered in Everest Fish Curry Masala, making these spices unfit for human consumption. Sellers were immediately asked to remove these products from sale.

Singapore and the Maldives also ordered the recall of Everest spice mix, saying it contains high levels of ethylene oxide, a chemical classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Ethylene oxide is mainly used in the production of other chemicals, including antifreeze. It is also used in small quantities as a pesticide and sterilant. Despite its effectiveness as a sterilant, ethylene oxide is also known for its carcinogenic properties, which include potential risks of lymphoma, leukemia, and stomach and breast cancer.

The Regulation on Pesticide Residues in Foods states that foods containing pesticide residues can only be sold if they are not dangerous or harmful to health. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also collects information on both spice brands, and other countries analyze MDH products or ban them outright for safety reasons.

Despite concerns expressed by food safety regulators in different countries, in India, where MDH and Everest sell most of their production, FSSAI is lagging behind. “This delay on the part of the FSSAI raises serious concerns about its commitment to our security,” said Faisal Ashraf, a student at Jamia Milia Islamia University in Delhi. India Media Group.

“While other countries are acting quickly, the silence here is deafening. A simple notice can easily raise awareness and inform consumers about potential risks, but it seems that no one cares about us,” he adds.

In the absence of instructions from FSSAI, Indian traders are selling these products without any information or warning to consumers. This lack of official guidance leaves sellers and buyers poorly informed about the potential risks associated with these products.

“We are unaware of the spice controversy happening outside our borders, and we continue to sell them as we always have, moving 40-50 packets a day and Indian kitchens do not simply cannot function without them,” said Deepak Kumar, a trader from Sarita Vihar in south Delhi. Media India Group.

“The lack of information leaves us uncertain about the safety of these products. We hope for clearer communication from regulatory authorities so that we can confidently assure our customers of the quality and safety of the spices we offer,” he adds.

Indian traders say that even though they are aware of the bans imposed in other countries, they cannot stop selling products due to decisions taken in other countries and would instead wait for clear instructions from the FSSAI regarding the safety of these products.

“We cannot stop the sale of our products just because they are banned in other countries. As long as they are allowed in India and the demand for spices remains high on a daily basis, we will continue to sell them. Our business is based on meeting the needs of our customers and until the demand decreases, we will continue to supply these spices. Ultimately, it is up to consumers to decide what they want to buy, and as long as they buy, we will be there to meet their needs,” says Vikram Kumar, a trader at Madanpur Khadar. India Media Group.

And in the absence of guidance from the FSSAI, consumers also continue to use the spices.

“I have been using MDH spices for years and I don’t think they can be dangerous for us,” says Virneet Devi. India Media Group while she buys MDH spices.

“They are a staple in our kitchen, adding flavor to our meals without any hassle. With such a long history of use of these spices, it’s hard to imagine that they pose any danger. However, with the recent controversy, I can’t help but wonder about their safety. Still, old habits die hard, and for now, I will continue to use MDH spices until we receive clearer information from the authorities,” she adds.

Rumaisa

Rumaisa

But some consumers have decided on their own to stop using these products until the issue is clear.

“When I heard about the ban, I immediately stopped using these products. It was hard to use them for years, but health comes first. If other countries are banning them, there must be something dangerous. I have advised my friends and family against using them. When I see someone buying MDH or Everest spices, I try to explain it to them, but they don’t take it seriously. It would be better if food agencies clarify or provide advice, so that people do not risk their health,” says master’s student Rumaisa. Media India Group.

Amid growing apprehensions about the safety of packaged spices, health professionals are stepping in to guide consumers. The concerns of many in the medical community highlight the importance of carefully examining masala ingredients before making a purchase.

“As a doctor, I always stress the importance of checking the ingredients contained in masala before purchasing, and, relying on packaged spices daily may not be ideal, if people still prefer to consume spices regularly, I recommend grinding them at home for freshness and purity. Although spices enhance flavor, moderation is key to staying healthy,” says Dr. Joy Basu. Media India Group.

Dr Joy Basu

Dr Joy Basu

In an official statement, MDH reassured its buyers and consumers that ethylene oxide is not used at any stage of the storage, processing or packaging of their spices. The statement comes amid growing concerns over the presence of ethylene oxide in some spicy products, prompting investigations and recalls in various countries.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also investigating the matter, while Indian authorities recently conducted inspections at MDH and Everest production facilities.

In response to international criticism, the Spices Board and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) have initiated routine sampling procedures. However, as of yet, neither these nor any other government bodies have released definitive findings regarding the quality or safety of these spices.