25 May 2024

NZ Food Safety looking into pesticide concerns of two Indian spices brands

New Zealand Food Safety is now looking into the residue levels of ethylene oxide, if any, in the spices of India’s two leading brands, MDH and Everest.

This follows NewsViews taking up the health concerns with the New Zealand Food Safety (NZFS) on 28th April after reporting a ban on these top brands by Singapore and Hong Kong for alleged presence of ethylene oxide.

On Saturday, Maldives joined Singapore and Hong Kong and banned the use and import of Everest and MDH brand species for alleged presence of ethylene oxide in their spices.

Spices of these two affected brands are currently readily available in almost all Indian grocery shops in New Zealand.

Presence of ethylene oxide led to a ban by three countries

This pesticide ethylene oxide has already been phased out in New Zealand, though some countries still use it.

Exposure to this chemical ethylene oxide above the permissible level is associated with various kinds of cancers, including lymphoid, leukemia, and breast cancer. This chemical is generally used for sterilising medical devices and can be used to fumigate agricultural products to prevent microbial contamination.

In a statement to NewsViews this morning (30 April), New Zealand Food Safety deputy director-general Vincent Arbuckle assured that they are aware of the reported concerns of these brands and were looking into this.

“New Zealand Food Safety (NZFS) is aware of overseas recalls of MDH and Everest products due to concerns over ethylene oxide,“ Arbuckle told NewsViews in their statement.

“Ethylene oxide is a chemical known to cause cancer in humans, and its use for food sterilisation has been phased out in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Singapore, the United States, and other countries.

“Although some countries still use ethylene oxide, a 2001 study in New Zealand found the residues of ethylene oxide in spices did not represent a significant human health risk because of the low concentrations. 

“As MDF and Everest spices are also available in New Zealand, we are looking into this issue,” NZFS Safety deputy director-general Arbuckle said.

MDH and Everest are house-hold names in India and widely exported across the world. Both brands, however, have already refuted these allegations as “baseless and unsubstantiated”. These manufacturers have also assured that these are 100% safe to consume.

With reports of FDA also looking into these allegations, and EU flagging presence of cancer-causing chemical in 527 food products originating from India, New Zealanders will await the findings and decision of FDA.

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