FDA analysing Salmonella contamination in retail packages of spices

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: istock/karandaev
Photo: istock/karandaev

Related tags: Salmonella

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working through data from a two-year study on the presence of Salmonella in retail packages of spices.

Domestically produced and imported spices were included in the 7,249 samples of basil, black pepper, oregano, paprika, red pepper (capsicum), coriander, cumin, curry powder, garlic, sesame seed and white pepper.

Draft risk profile data

FDA developed a draft risk profile released in October 2013​ but it was missing retail data. Updated information will be revealed soon, it said.

In the previous work, spice shipments from 79 countries were examined for Salmonella, and 37 were contaminated.

Shipments for entry into the US had an overall prevalence for Salmonella of 6.6% during the 2007 to 2009 fiscal years, about twice the average prevalence of other imported, FDA-regulated foods.

However, because many imported spices are treated after entry to reduce contamination before they are sold to consumers, the rate at import level did not reflect what was reaching consumers.

The agency also found 12% of shipments during a three-year period (FY 2007 to FY 2009) were adulterated with filth such as insects and animal hair, which can result from inadequate packing or storage conditions.

FDA said it was not recommending a change in consumption or use of spices.

“Under new FSMA regulations, facilities will be required to implement preventive controls for hazards in foods, such as pathogens such as Salmonella that may be associated with certain spices,” ​it said.

“Moreover, in many cuisines, spices are added during cooking rather than at the table, and this heat treatment can reduce pathogen contamination depending on the length of cooking and temperature.”

In India, the leading country of origin for US spice importation, the FDA has offices in New Delhi and Mumbai and scientists will be on the newly formed Codex Committee on Spices and Culinary Herbs.

Canada outbreak investigation ends

Meanwhile, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has concluded an investigation​ into an outbreak of Salmonella Infantis infections in nine provinces.

There were 110 cases of Salmonella in British Columbia (9), Alberta (13), Saskatchewan (2), Manitoba (2), Ontario (63), Quebec (15) Nova Scotia (3), Prince Edward Island (2) and New Brunswick (1).

Individuals became sick between March 2015 and January 2016. Twenty-one people were hospitalized, and all have recovered or are recovering.

A sample of raw chicken from the home of an individual who was sick tested positive for the same strain of Salmonella Infantis which suggests raw chicken was the likely source.

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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