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Spices Board discussing setting of ETO limits with CODEX

The Spices Board has taken up with CODEX, the international food standards body, the crucial issue of setting limits for ethylene oxide (ETO) usage in spices. The follows the recall of certain branded spices exported by Indian companies to Hong Kong and Singapore on concerns related to ETO (ethylene oxide) contamination.

“India has taken up with the CODEX committee the need for setting up limits for ETO usage as different countries have different limits. CODEX has not prescribed a limit so far. Also, there is no standard for ETO testing. India has also given a proposal for that,” an official told businessline.

ETO, a chemical used as a sterilising agent in spices, is considered carcinogenic when used beyond certain limits.

While work to prevent contamination needs to be intensified, India’s sample failure in spices is less than 1 per cent of its exports in major markets, the official said.

Mandatory order

“The Spices Board has taken steps to ensure the safety and quality of Indian spice exports to Hong Kong and Singapore. The board has made it mandatory to test such consignments destined to these two countries,” the official said.

A techno-scientific committee has also conducted a root cause analysis, inspected processing facilities, and collected samples for testing in accredited labs, he said.

The Spices Board recently circulated detailed guidelines for exporters on  prevention of ETO contamination for safety of all markets. The guidelines advise exporters against using ETO as a sterilising agent to reduce the microbial contamination in spices consignments and suggests alternatives such as steam sterilisation and irradiation (not applicable to organic products under NPOP). It also provides the MRLs for ETO in important markets.

More question quality

“Exporters are advised to test their raw materials, processing aids and finished goods for ETO contamination. On instances of ETO detection above the permissible limits of the importing countries, exporters shall not export the products. Root cause analysis for its occurrence and preventive measures to be followed, shall be recorded for taking necessary steps to avoid future recurrence,” the guidelines noted.

Other countries such as the US, New Zealand and Australia, have also raised questions on the quality of some Indian spices and are determining if further action needs to be taken.

In 2023-24, India’s spice exports totalled $4.25 billion, accounting for a 12 per cent share of the global spice exports.

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