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FDA Reports 12 percent of Imported Spices Are Contaminated

Update Date: Oct 31, 2013 10:16 AM EDT

When it comes to food safety, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are adept to take care of outbreaks when they occur. However, nipping contamination at the source might be more effective in preventing outbreaks in general, which is why the FDA recently revised pet food and animal safety guidelines. Even though addressing those problems are important, creating tighter controls on imported human food should be a priority as well. The FDA just announced that around 12 percent of imported spices in the U.S. are contaminated.

"Nearly all of the insects found in spice samples were stored product pests, indicating inadequate packing or storage conditions. The presence of rodent hair [without a root] in spices is generally indicative of contamination by rodent feces," the FDA draft report stated according to the Los Angeles Times.

The FDA decided to examine the safety of imported spices after they received cases of salmonella tied to these spices. The FDA found insects, animal excrement, rodent hair and rubber bands in these products. Based from the agency's recent analysis, the FDA believes the contaminated spices can be categorized as a "systemic" problem. They believe that from 1973 to 2010, 2,000 people fell ill after consuming the spices with 128 of them needing hospitalization throughout the world.

When the FDA looked at 2,800 shipments from 2007 to 2009 entering the U.S., they found that seven percent contained salmonella. The report stated that the inspectors identified salmonella on Indian ginger and poppy seed. Around a quarter of America's spices, oils and food colorings come from India. They found the bacteria on Japanese black and red pepper and on allspice from Turkey as well. This bacterial infection is responsible for killing 400 people and sickening 1.2 million people every year within the U.S.

"[The findings] are a wake-up call," commented Jane M. Van Doren according to the New York Times. Van Doren is a food and spice official with the FDA. "It means: 'Hey, you haven't solved the problems.'"

The report can be found here

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