FDA: Spice risk profile to open for comments

spices_blogThe contamination of spices with microbial and other hazards poses a “systematic  challenge”, according to a new report from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

FDA sampling data from 2007 to 2009 shows that about 12 percent of shipments of imported spices were adulterated with “filth”, with the most common adulterant being insect fragments and animal hair. Likewise, the study also found about 7 percent of samples tested were contaminated with Salmonella. It is important to note that spices that had been subjected to pathogen reduction treatments had a smaller prevalence of the bacteria than untreated lots.

Overall, the report identified 14 outbreaks related to spices or seasonings in the period from 1973 to 2010. These outbreaks led to less than 2,000 reported illnesses and 128 hospitalizations globally. The relatively low number of outbreaks and illnesses may be due in part to preventive control measures implemented by spice and food producers, including pathogen reduction treatments. In all,  10 of the 14 outbreaks were caused by different variations of Salmonella enterica.

In order to further reduce spice-associated outbreaks, FDA has increased the number of spice facility inspections during the past few years. Additionally, spices also fall under the auspices of the preventive control rule and foreign supplier verification rules that stem from the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

The data is from a draft risk profile that describes the “current state of knowledge related to a specific food safety issue, (and) describes mitigation and control mechanisms currently available and identifies critical knowledge gaps”. This profile focused specifically on microbiological risks to spices as well as filth, while also identifying where these sources of contamination are and how they may be addressed. FDA first announced the risk profile in 2010 after several outbreaks of spice-related illness.

The document is open for comments beginning Nov. 4. It can be accessed here.

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