retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times reports this morning that "about 12 percent of spices brought to the United States are contaminated with insect parts, whole insects, rodent hairs and other things, according to an analysis of spice imports by federal food authorities.

"The finding by the Food and Drug Administration is part of a comprehensive look at the safety of spice imports that has been years in the making. The federal authorities also found that nearly 7 percent of spice imports examined by federal inspectors were contaminated with salmonella, a toxic bacteria that can cause severe illness in humans.

"The shares of imported spices contaminated with insect parts and salmonella were twice those found in other types of imported food, federal food officials said … Spice imports from Mexico and India have been found to have the highest rate of contamination. Nearly one-quarter of the spices, oils and food colorings used in the United States comes from India, according to the F.D.A."

According to the story, spice manufacturers, while not yet commenting on this report, "have argued in the past that food manufacturers often treat imported spices before marketing them, so F.D.A. findings of contamination levels in its import screening program do not mean that spices sold to consumers are dangerous."
KC's View:
This may be true, but I have to admit that this only heightens my belief in the importance of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL). I spent about an hour cleaning out the larder last weekend, and I dumped a ton of old spices … but based on this report, I think I'm going to have to take another look.