Australia investigating potential contamination on MDH and Everest spices

Following Hong Kong, Singapore, and the US, Australia's food safety watchdog is currently investigating spice mixes sold by MDH and Everest.

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Australia’s food safety watchdog is currently investigating potential contamination concerns surrounding spice mixes sold by Indian firms MDH and Everest. This scrutiny marks the latest regulatory action amidst growing concerns over food safety.

Hong Kong recently halted sales of three MDH spice blends and one Everest mix, while Singapore ordered a recall of the same Everest blend due to heightened levels of ethylene oxide, a chemical known to pose serious health risks, including long-term cancer hazards.

“We are collaborating with international counterparts and domestic food enforcement agencies to fully grasp the situation and assess if further measures are warranted in Australia,” remarked Food Standards Australia New Zealand.

The possibility of a recall is being carefully weighed, with Food Standards Australia New Zealand stressing, “Ethylene oxide is strictly prohibited as a treatment for food items sold in Australia.”

MDH and Everest have previously defended the safety of their products.

These spice brands, deeply entrenched in India’s culinary culture, enjoy widespread distribution across Europe, Asia, and North America.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also stepped up efforts to gather additional information on the issue. Simultaneously, Indian authorities have conducted recent inspections at MDH and Everest facilities.

In prior instances, specific batches of MDH products were recalled in the U.S. due to salmonella contamination in 2019, while the FDA ordered the recall of two Everest spice mixes for similar contamination risks in 2023.

Given India’s status as the leading exporter, consumer, and producer of spices globally, the implications of these events are substantial. MDH and Everest, as major players in India’s spice industry, contribute significantly to the country’s spice market, valued at $10.44 billion in 2022, with exports totaling $4 billion during 2022-23.

Last week, India formally requested export data on MDH and Everest from authorities in Hong Kong and Singapore, following regulatory interventions.

On Tuesday, Hong Kong’s Centre for Food Safety confirmed informing the Indian embassy of the test results for necessary follow-up actions, albeit without divulging further details.

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