Food safety agencies in the USA, Canada and the UK are investigating the source of undeclared almond and peanut found in cumin and paprika. The contaminated spices have been widely used as ingredients in other products, prompting a series of recalls to protect consumers allergic to nuts.
The problem first came to light in the USA, where tests revealed the presence of undeclared peanut protein in certain products containing ground cumin. Cumin is widely used as an ingredient in spice and seasoning mixes and a wide range of products that contain the contaminated spice have been recalled. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also issued advice to consumers with peanut allergies.
In the UK, the Food Standards Agency has found undeclared almond protein in a number of products containing spice and seasoning mixes as well as in a sample of Bart’s brand Ground Cumin. Investigations suggest that paprika in the spice mixes is the most likely source of contamination. A number of products containing the paprika, supplied by Santa Maria UK Ltd, have been recalled. A Sweet Hungarian Paprika product on sale in the USA has been recalled because of undeclared peanut.
At present there is no evidence to link these incidents and no confirmation as to whether the presence of nuts in the spices is deliberate or accidental. However, it has been suggested that failure of the cumin crop in India and rapidly rising prices may have contributed to the problem. Although the levels of peanut and almond protein found in products on sale are generally low, there may be a health risk for consumers who are strongly allergic to nuts.