La Direction générale de la concurrence, de la consommation et de la répression des fraudes (DGCCRF) said findings shows the spice market is strongly impacted by fraudulent practices that undermine quality of products as well as their image.
Controls showed the spice with the most anomalies was saffron (81%).
It was followed by peppers, curry and curcumas and other spices and mixtures.
Controls focused on 181 establishments including producers, importers, processors and traders.
The control looked at powdered spices, particularly saffron, peppers, paprika, curries, curcumas, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and ginger.
Investigations covered document assessment and laboratory analysis.
Spice sector pressures
The agency said conditions of production and scarcity of some spices creates tensions in the market, causing price increases and marketing of products of lesser quality or that are falsified.
DGCCRF found presence of substitute ingredients, ingredients in higher quantity than listed and presence of other spices or ingredients not labelled.
A saffron item sold as « fleur de safran » was made of 100% safflower.
A cinnamon sample was advertised as originating from Sri Lanka when it was actually a Chinese cinnamon (lower quality and cheaper), containing a significant amount of coumarin (unlike Chinese cinnamon, the Sri Lankan version contains very little of this compound).
Filler substances such as salt, starches and olive pomace are added to spice to artificially increase the mass of the product sold and reduce cost.
DGCCRF said falsification of fillers is common and was a particular target during the control.
Seven per cent of samples analysed contained allergens not mentioned and shortcomings related to the use of the French language were observed.
Almost one in five had labelling issues either net weight lower than stated or an issue with product name.
It is not the first time, spices have come under scrutiny.
A quarter of 78 dried oregano samples tested by UK consumer group Which? was found to contain other ingredients in 2015.
Other ingredients included olive and myrtle leaves but also cistus at levels varying from 30-70% of products.
Choice, a consumer organisation in Australia, found seven of 12 twelve dried oregano samples contained other ingredients such as olive and sumac leaves. They made up between 50-90% of the adulterated samples tested in 2016.
Four out of 10 oregano samples contained other plant material, according to testing last year from a Danish consumer watchdog.
The amount of adulteration showed it was unlikely to be accidental contamination, said Forbrugerrådet Tænk.