The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a draft risk profile on pathogens and filth (animal and fungal matter) in spices. It describes the current state of knowledge of the issue, along with potential control mechanisms and knowledge gaps.
The new study identifies the most common microbial hazards and filth in spices and where these contaminants are most likely to occur along the supply chain. The findings suggest that the presence of pathogens, such as Salmonella, and filth in spices is a systemic problem often caused by poor or inconsistent application of appropriate control measures.
Despite the risk of contamination, the risk profile identified only 14 outbreaks of illness worldwide between 1973 and 2010 that were related to spices or seasonings. This relatively small number is thought to be a result of decontamination by the food manufacturing industry, cooking during food preparation and the very small quantities of spices that tend to be consumed at a single meal. However, it is also possible that spice related outbreaks are under-reported.
The FDA is now taking steps to improve the safety of spices and has increased inspections at spice manufacturing facilities. It has also provided training to help suppliers manage safety in the supply chain and will be implementing some of the new mitigation measures identified in the risk profile.
The FDA is now seeking comments on the draft risk profile, which can be downloaded in full as a PDF file here.