BFDA looking into pesticide contamination in MDH and Everest Masala

MDH, a popular Indian spice brand, has been in controversy following allegations of pesticide contamination in some of its pre-packaged spice products.

This comes after Hong Kong suspended sales of certain spice mixes over high levels of ethylene oxide, triggering Singapore to recall MDH, and another Indian spice brand, Everest, due to potential cancer risks.

The accusations surfaced after reports from food safety regulators in Hong Kong and Singapore revealed the presence of ethylene oxide, a banned pesticide.

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) in Hong Kong issued a warning against the sale and purchase of MDH’s Madras Curry Powder and Sambhar Masala, alongside Everest’s Fish Curry Masala.

The Bhutanese reached out to the Bhutan Food and Drug Authority (BFDA) regarding this matter and how Bhutan is going to deal with these findings given that the MDH spice brand is also consumed in Bhutan.

To which, BFDA said, “To verify the recent findings in the media on the presence of ethylene oxide in food items, including the Indian spice brands, MDH and Everest, we have contacted the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN), which is a global network of around 186 national food safety authorities and serves as a platform for rapid sharing of information during food safety emergencies to stop the contaminated food from one country to another.”

Regarding this, on 3 May 2024, INFOSAN Secretariat informed BFDA that, till date, no notification has been there from European authorities on such issues. However, notification has been received from Singapore for the recall of the Everest Fish Curry Masala from India.

“It’s important to note for now that not all spices exported by India are implicated in this recall. As per the Singapore Food Agency, the product in question is Everest Fish Curry Masala (50g) with a best before date of 09/2025,” BFDA stated.

During the recent market surveillance conducted by the officials of BFDA, the above specified Everest brand of spices with “best before date of 09/2025” was not found in Bhutan.

However, BFDA is going to reach accredited laboratories abroad for comprehensive examination as BFDA assured, “…the National Food Testing Laboratory does not have the capacity to test for ethylene oxide and upon receipt of the test findings, BFDA will take appropriate regulatory actions as necessary.”

BFDA reminds people that though there is no immediate risk to consumption of food contaminated with low levels of ethylene oxide, long term exposure may lead to health issues. Therefore, consumers who have purchased the implicated products are advised not to consume it.

“Our field officials are rigorously carrying out inspection and monitoring and request all importers to refrain from importation of particular implicated products,” stated BAFDA

The controversy surrounding MDH comes at a time when India holds a dominant position in the global spice market with nearly INR 32,000 crore in exports during the 2022-23 financial period.

According to Times of India, the company denied the use of ethylene oxide at any stage of its spice production and highlighted the lack of evidence supporting the allegations, viewing them as lacking evidence.

In a statement addressing the allegations, MDH reassured consumers of the safety and authenticity of its products, emphasizing its adherence to strict health and safety standards both in India and internationally.

In a report shared by BBC, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also launched an investigation into products from MDH and Everest recognized by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as carcinogenic, causing cancers like, lymphoma and breast cancer.

In 2019, MDH also faced US allegations over salmonella contamination fears, highlighting ongoing food safety challenges.

BBC has reached out to MDH and Everest for comments, awaiting further updates on this developing story.

India’s Spices Board is collaborating with authorities to explore about this matter with Hong Kong and Singapore, aiming to uncover the root cause of the quality issues.

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