Spice imports are riddled with insect fragments and worse

New findings from the Food and Drug Administration reveal imported seasonings are rife with all manner of filth

Topics: Scientific American, Spice Imports, bugs, Mold, Food and Drug Administration,

Spice imports are riddled with insect fragments and worse

Some spices contain ingredients you won’t find in any recipes. The Food and Drug Administration recently found that spices entering the U.S. are nearly twice as likely as the average FDA-regulated foodstuff to containSalmonella pathogens or unacceptable amounts of filth. Roughly 12 percent of spice imports, which make up the bulk of the U.S. supply, exceeded federal limits on the “maximum levels of natural or unavoidable defects,” such as insect body parts and animal hair. In sufficiently small amounts, the FDA reasons, such defects “pose no inherent hazard to health.”Those limits might seem rather loose—a small, two-ounce jar of paprika must contain roughly 170 insect fragments or 25 rodent hairs to be considered adulterated. But whereas the odd instance of egregious filth involves objects large enough to be spotted by consumers, many contaminants are merely microscopic fragments, according to the FDA.

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