Spices forum urges action on Ethylene Oxide issues

| Updated: 17 May, 2024 11:31 am IST

Kochi: In response to recent rejections on specific spice exports by Singapore and Hong Kong due to Ethylene Oxide (EtO) presence, the Indian spice industry has urged immediate action to address concerns around food safety and export quality standards.

Press meet conducted by All India Spices Exports Forum in Kochi

 

At a press conference organised by the All-India Spices Exporters Forum (AISEF) and attended by other prominent associations such as Indian Spice & Foodstuff Exporters Association (ISFEA), Indian Pepper & Spice Trade Association (IPSTA), and Federation of Indian Spice Stakeholders (FISS), a resolute commitment was reaffirmed towards upholding the highest quality and safety standards in spice exports from India. The industry has emphasized the urgent need to allow EtO treatment for spices within the country to align with the stringent quality requirements of importing nations.

India, renowned as the land of spices for centuries, holds a pivotal position in the global spice trade as the world’s leading producer, exporter and consumer of spices. Last year, India exported spices to the tune of 14.26 lakh tons valued at approximately $4.2 billion, contributing significantly to the international market due to its superior quality and diversity of spice varieties. It is notable that even when Indian spice exports are being shipped in such large quantities less than 1% of such exports face recall issues. It should also be noted that spice exports from India to Singapore and Hongkong have not been banned as has wrongly been reported by some in the media.

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Sanjeev Bisht, Chairman of AISEF, highlighted that if Indian exporters are not permitted to supply EtO treated spices it will have a detrimental effect on the country’s position in the global spice market. The industry addressed misconceptions surrounding EtO and emphasized that it is not a pesticide but is a sterilizing agent crucial for containing and minimizing microbial contamination and life-threatening pathogens like Salmonella and E. coli present in spices and food products.

AISEF highlighted the safety and efficacy of EtO treatment, citing its permissible use in several countries, including the United States, where it is employed to sterilize food items to control food-borne pathogens. Disallowing EtO treatment could lead to increased risks of microbiological pathogens, non-compliance with regulations, and product recalls in importing countries, potentially jeopardizing India’s market share. The American Spice Trade Association in its letter to the Spices Board asserted that ETO is currently permitted for use on spices in the U.S.A. The US spice industry relies on ETO sterilisation as one of the primary methods to comply with FDA regulations.

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The industry called for consumer awareness initiatives to educate consumers on the benefits and safety of EtO treated spices, underscoring the necessity for a robust regulatory framework encompassing monitoring, testing, and certification of EtO treated spices. Furthermore, collaborations between stakeholders and regulatory authorities were stressed to develop and implement guidelines for ensuring that spices exported from India meet the quality standards specified by importing nations.

Emmanuel Nambusseril, Vice Chairman, AISEF emphasized the need for a scientific risk assessment of Ethylene Oxide to establish Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) ensuring the safety of end consumers using spice products. The industry remains dedicated to working closely with regulatory authorities and industry stakeholders to uphold the quality and safety standards of Indian spice exports.

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