Indian Spices Export May Report

Gujarat Intensifies Testing to Ensure Safe Spices Amid ETO Concerns Over 300 Spice Samples Collected as India Addresses International Safety Standards and Potential Export Declines

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Spice Samples Collected for ETO Testing

To ensure spices are free from ethylene oxide (ETO) residue, Gujarat’s Food and Drugs Control Administration (FDCA) and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) have collected over 300 samples. This collection includes samples from 13 export-oriented units in Gujarat. This initiative follows the suspension of popular brands. Like MDH and Everest in Singapore and Hong Kong due to elevated ETO levels. As a result, FSSAI has mandated comprehensive testing of spices from all brands nationwide.

Response to International Concerns

H G Koshia, Commissioner of FDCA Gujarat, stated, “FSSAI directed all states to collect samples and inspect manufacturing sites. With around 1,000 licenses granted to food and condiment units in Gujarat, we have collected over 300 spice samples so far.” The goal is to test powdered spices, including chili, turmeric, cumin, and various spice blends, for ETO residue. FDCA, alongside FSSAI officials, collected samples from Gujarat’s export-oriented units to ensure compliance.

ETO’s Role in Sterilization

ETO, a colorless gas, has been used for over 30 years as a sterilizing agent to minimize microbial presence in spices and food products, including mold and pathogens like salmonella and E. coli. Additionally, ETO sterilizes heat-sensitive medical disposables such as syringes and catheters. However, the recent controversy highlights the need for strict regulation and testing.

International Tolerance Levels and Testing Methods

The Federation of Indian Spice Stakeholders (FISS) pointed out the lack of set regulations or limits for ETO residue in India. The European Union and United Kingdom permit only 0.1 mg per kg of ETO in spices. In contrast, the tolerance level is 7 mg per kg in the US and Canada. And 50 mg per kg in Singapore. Ashvin Nayak, chairman of FISS and head of Kanaiya Exports Pvt Ltd. He noted that most exporters prefer steam sterilization for EU and UK markets, although it is 4-5 times more expensive than ETO sterilization. The machinery required for steam sterilization must be imported from Europe, adding to the cost.

Decline in Export Shipments

The current ETO residue controversy is adversely affecting Indian spice exports. Several countries, including Nepal, have halted export consignments from India. Exporters warn that if the government does not intervene, spice exports could fall by 40 percent this financial year. Nayak emphasized, “We appeal to the Spices Board of India to test samples from each shipments. To ensure the continuous flow of exports.”

India’s Dominance in the Spice Market

India accounts for 60-70 percent of the global spice exports. In the 2021-22 financial year, over 15.31 million tonnes of spices were exported to countries such as China, the USA, Canada, the UK, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, and the EU. However, the ongoing ETO issue threatens this dominant position. With stringent testing and adherence to international standards, India aims to maintain its leading role in the global spice market while ensuring consumer safety.

The comprehensive testing and regulatory measures being implemented by FSSAI and FDCA Gujarat aim to address the ETO residue issue in spices. Ensuring compliance with international standards is crucial to sustaining India’s spice export market. By promoting safer sterilization methods and adhering to rigorous testing protocols, India can continue to lead in global spice exports while safeguarding public health.