FDA answers questions on spice safety

March 3, 2016

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is posting questions and answers about spice safety after completing a two-year, nationwide study to collect data on the presence of Salmonella in retail packages of spices. As part of the effort to learn more about the public health risks associated with spices and help develop plans to improve the safety of spices, the FDA also developed a draft risk profile, which was released in October 2013.

The draft risk profile determined that the presence of pathogens, such as Salmonella, and filth in spices is a systemic challenge and that the problem relates in part to poor or inconsistent use of appropriate controls to prevent contamination. Spice shipments offered for entry into the United States had an overall prevalence for Salmonella of approximately 6.6% during the 2007–2009 fiscal years, about twice the average prevalence of all other imported, FDA-regulated foods. However, because many imported spices are treated after entry to the United States to reduce contamination before they are sold to consumers, the FDA decided to collect retail data to better evaluate the true risk to consumers.

The recently completed two-year study included domestically produced and imported spices for a total of 7,249 spice samples. The spices sampled were basil, black pepper, oregano, paprika, red pepper (capsicum), coriander, cumin, curry powder, garlic, sesame seed, and white pepper. The FDA is still analyzing the data and is starting to have preliminary results.

The spice safety Q&A also highlights the role that the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) will play in helping to improve spice safety. The FSMA rules focus on preventing hazards and on tightening controls in the supply chain for both domestically produced and imported foods.

Spice safety Q&A