Government mandates ethylene oxide testing for exports of spices to Singapore and Hong Kong.

Following recent bans imposed by Singapore and Hong Kong on specific spice exports from Indian brands MDH and Everest due to alleged contamination with ethylene oxide (ETO), the Indian government has announced compulsory testing for ETO in all spice exports bound for these countries.
According to officials, this decision comes after consultations between the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the Spices Board, and industry stakeholders.
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Ethylene oxide, categorised as a carcinogenic (cancer-causing) pesticide, has raised concerns regarding food safety and export quality standards. Presently, spice exports to these nations require mandatory testing for the carcinogen Aflatoxin and the dye Sudan I-IV. However, ETO testing is mandatory for shipments exported to the European Union and the United Kingdom.
Stringent monitoring for ETO presence will also be extended to spice shipments to other destinations; media reports cited officials as saying.
Reportedly, the Commerce Ministry has instructed Indian embassies in Singapore and Hong Kong to furnish detailed reports on the issue. Additionally, it has sought information from MDH and Everest regarding the matter.
The ministry has also contacted the Singapore Food Agency, the Centre for Food Safety in Hong Kong, and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department in Hong Kong for further details.
In the financial year 2022-23, India exported spices worth nearly Rs 32,000 crore, including major items like chilli, cumin, spice oil and oleoresins, turmeric, curry powder, and cardamom.
What is the MDH, Everest masala controversy?
Earlier this week, the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region said that there was presence of ethylene oxide in MDH Group’s madras curry powder, sambhar masala powder, and curry powder.
Prior to that, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) had also ordered a recall for India’s Everest fish curry masala due to the presence of ethylene oxide, a pesticide unauthorised for food use, detected beyond acceptable limits.
Sp Muthiah & Sons, the importer, were directed by the SFA to recall the affected products, and the public was urged to stay away from consuming the products.
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Following the action against Indian spices in these two countries, India’s spice exports regulator has asked MDH and Everest to provide details of quality checks. A senior official at the Spices Board of India, which oversees quality standards and testing guidelines, said that the companies have been asked to explain how the products were tested and if all regulations were met.
“We need to get the relevant details on how this has happened … We need to check if the conditions required by importing countries were met and if our regulations were met,” said the official.
What is ethylene oxide, and why is it dangerous?
Ethylene oxide has been designated as a known human carcinogen by both the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Lymphoma, Leukemia, and breast cancer are among the types of cancer most frequently associated with long exposure to ethylene oxide. Furthermore, ETO exposure may also affect the nervous system, causing symptoms like headache, dizziness, and nausea.






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