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FDA investigating cancer-causing pesticide in certain Everest and MDH spices


April 29, 2024: The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has initiated an investigation into products manufactured by two Indian spice giants amid concerns of alleged contamination with a cancer-causing pesticide, reports BBC.

Hong Kong recently halted the sale of three spice blends produced by MDH and another by Everest, citing suspected elevated levels of ethylene oxide, a chemical linked to cancer. Both MDH and Everest boast widespread popularity in India and across the globe.

While Everest has previously asserted the safety of its products, MDH has refrained from commenting on the matter.

An FDA spokesperson informed Reuters news agency, “The FDA is aware of the reports and is gathering additional information about the situation.”

In a statement posted on its website on April 5, the Centre for Food Safety (CFS), Hong Kong’s food regulatory authority, said that three spice products of MDH — Madras Curry Powder (spice blend for Madras Curry), Sambhar Masala (Mixed Masala Powder), and Curry Powder (Mixed Masala Powder) — along with Everest’s Fish Curry Masala contain “a pesticide, ethylene oxide”.

Under its routine food surveillance program, the CFS took the products from three retail outlets in Hong Kong.

“The test results showed that the samples contained a pesticide, ethylene oxide,” said a CFS spokesperson.

The regulator instructed the vendors “to stop the sale and remove from shelves the affected products”.

Recalls have been initiated on the products, it said.

“According to the Pesticide Residues in Food Regulation (Cap. 132CM), food for human consumption containing pesticide residue may only be sold if consumption of the food is not dangerous or prejudicial to health. An offender is liable to a maximum fine of $50,000 and imprisonment for six months upon conviction,” the CFS spokesperson said.

The CFS noted that “investigations are ongoing” and “appropriate action” may be initiated in the matter.

Meanwhile, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) also ordered a recall of Everest’s Fish Curry Masala due to the presence of ethylene oxide at levels “exceeding the permissible limit”.

The SFA posted a release on its website on April 18 that said it “has directed the importer, Sp Muthiah & Sons Pte. Ltd., to recall the products. The recall is ongoing.”

The SFA noted that ethylene oxide is not fit for consumption, but is “used to fumigate agricultural products to prevent microbial contamination”.

However, under Singapore’s food regulations, ethylene oxide can be “used in the sterilization of spices”.

While there is no immediate risk to eating foods “with low levels of ethylene oxide, long-term exposure may lead to health issues”, said the SFA, noting that exposure to the “substance should be minimized as much as possible”.

It also advised people who bought the product to not “consume it”, and those who have concerns about their health after consumption must “seek medical advice”.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, “ethylene oxide is a human carcinogen. It causes cancer”.

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