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The spices in your kitchen cabinet could make your family very sick.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has discovered that imported spices were twice as likely to be contaminated with salmonella bacteria as other kinds of food.
The agency’s scientists found that 7 percent of the spices imported between 2007 and 2010 were contaminated with more than 80 different strains of salmonella, ABC News reported.
Filth in spices
“The agency’s findings suggest that the presence of pathogens, such as salmonella, and filth in spices is a systematic challenge,” the FDA noted. FDA researchers also discovered filth, including insect parts, in spices.
Some of the FDA’s disturbing findings about imported spices included:
- 749 spice shipments were refused entry into the USA between 2007 and 2010 because investigators detected salmonella bacteria in them.
- 238 spice shipments were denied entry to the US because they contained filth. The filth discovered included insects, hair, excrement and other contaminants.
- There have been 14 known outbreaks of food poisoning caused by spices since 1973
- 2,000 people are known to have gotten sick from contaminated spices since 1973, and many of them were children.
- Hundreds of people in the United States got sick from contaminated black and red pepper from China, India and Vietnam in 2009 and 2010.
The Danger from Salmonella
Salmonella bacteria can cause a type of food poisoning called salmonellosis. The disease is most likely to afflict older people, children and people with impaired immune systems.
Symptoms include diarrhea, dehydration, fever and cramps. In some cases these symptoms are so severe that they require hospitalization. Persons with other health problems can develop serious illness or die because of salmonellosis.
A small number of people develop a problem called Reiter’s Syndrome from salmonellosis. Reiter’s Syndrome causes inflammation and pain and in some cases it can lead to chronic arthritis.
Obama wants to expand food imports from Asia
The contaminated spices underscore the potential danger to America’s food supply from a proposed trade deal between the United States and several Pacific Rim nations. Vietnam is one of the sources of salmonella-contaminated spices and is among the nations included in the deal.
Critics have charged that the Transpacific Partnership deal would severely limit the US government’s ability to regulate and inspect food imports from countries that sign it. The argument is that the deal would force the United States to adhere to the standards set by its trading partners rather than those mandated by American law.
Imported spices would have to meet the standards in their country of origin rather than U.S. standards. The FDA would not be able to turn away contaminated shipments of spices from Vietnam that met Vietnamese standards, critics of the deal say.
How to Protect Your Family
Fortunately there are a few steps that you can take to protect your family from contaminated spices. These steps include:
- Check the label of the spices to see where they are made and try to avoid ones imported from nations with a history of salmonella poisoning.
- Grow your own spices and herbs for flavoring. You can grow your own red and hot peppers and dry and grind them throughout the United States. Garlic can also be grown in most of the US.
- Purchase high-quality organic spices. They’re less likely to be imported or contaminated.
- Substitute herbs you grow yourself for imported spices.