The United States Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) latest report may have you reconsidering a positive response to “would you care for fresh pepper?” at your next dining out experience. A three-year long study by the FDA reveals that imported spices are an unexpected source of salmonella poisoning. Over the course of the study, the FDA found that salmonella contamination in spice lots averaged double that found in other imported food products. This is an alarming statistic posing a potentially serious risk to the health and safety of our nation.
With 326 metric tons of spices imported annually, which is more than 80 percent of the country’s total supply, the United States is a leading player in the international spice market. The largest percentage of imported spice to the United States comes from India, accounting for almost one-quarter of all spices in our nation. Given these facts, it seems that both the governments of India and the United States would have a vested interest in insuring the safety of the international spice market.
For centuries Indian farmers have grown and harvested spices using traditional methods not necessarily in keeping with modern practices. Recognizing the need to protect the country’s lucrative spice exportation business, the Indian government is helping farmers adapt traditional farming techniques to modern methods which minimize exposure to contamination. This move on the part of the Indian government comes in the wake of recently adopted FDA rules. The new guidelines empower the FDA to restrict food imports based solely on suspicion of contamination as opposed to actual test results.
Protecting the world’s food supply from life-threatening contaminates like salmonella should be an international priority. Insuring that food is safe for human consumption is a basic premise to which the global community should ascribe. While the new FDA rules will help the United States stem the tide of contaminated imports, it seems that the time is ripe for development of international protocols which will protect imported food supplies world-wide. The Indian and United States governments have a unique opportunity to pioneer practices that can serve as model international policies and/or regulations on food safety. With all the unrest in the world it would be nice to know, at the very least, that our food supply is safe.
What are your thoughts? How important is insuring that the dash of oregano on your pizza or the shake of pepper on your salad meets international standards for food safety? Or do the FDA’s guidelines provide sufficient protection? Should the United States and India take the lead on developing international policies governing food safety?
Source: New York Times
Picture: New York Times