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Food safety body to test spices, fruits after some Indian brands banned in Hong Kong, Singapore

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) said that over 25 percent of the samples tested last year did not meet regulatory standards.

Screenshot 2024 04 30 094744NEW DELHI: After Hong Kong and Singapore banned some Indian brands of spices, India’s food regulator on Monday said it would test spices and culinary herbs along with four other types of food products including fruits and vegetables.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) said that over 25 percent of the samples tested last year did not meet regulatory standards.

Over 1,77,511 samples were collected in 2022-23, of which 44,626 or 25.14 percent were found to be non-conforming, it said.

“Surveillance is planned in 2024-25 for fruit and vegetables, salmonella in fish products, spice, and culinary herbs, fortified rice and milk and milk products,” it said in a statement issued for the first time after Hong Kong and Singapore banned three spice products of MDH and one of Everest following the detection of ethylene oxide. This cancer-causing agent raises the risk of breast cancer and lymphoma.

FSSAI said that in the last three years, nearly a quarter of the samples it tested did not conform to the regulatory standards.

Giving details, it said in 2020-21 nearly 26% of samples failed the test, while in 2021-22, over 22% were found to be non-conforming.

They said in 2023-24, they analysed 4,51,296 samples. However, the data is still being collected.

“The number of samples analysed during the past few years have grown substantially, from 1,07,829 in 2020-21 to more than 4,51,000 in 2023-24, registering an increase of more than 3 times,” the statement said.

After the Hong Kong and Singapore ban, the USFDA said it was gathering information on the four products.

Moreover, food safety authorities in the European Union also found ethylene oxide in 527 Indian products, which included herbs and spices. The European Food Safety Authority (RASFF) tested various Indian food items between September 2020 and April 2024.

In a survey by LocalCircles, India’s leading community social media platform, people have shared low confidence in Indian food regulators to ensure food safety. The survey also found that as many as 72 percent of consumers who had been consuming packaged spices of these two brands for a long time said they were concerned after carcinogenic ingredients were found in them.

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