How spices are stored before being exported may be causing contamination. A new report by the Food and Drug Adminitration (FDA) suggests that about 12 percent of spices brought to the U.S. are contaminated with insect parts, whole insects, rodent hairs and other things. Federal authorities also found that close to 7 percent of spice imports are contaminated with salmonella, a toxic bacteria that can cause severe illness in humans.

Spice imports from Mexico and India have the highest rate of contamination. The FDA reports about one-fourth of spices, oils and food colorings used in the United States comes from India. Contamination from insects and rodents is problematic and not easily resolved because cooking or heating the spices will not rid the products of the problem.

The report suggests that the insects found in the spices are those which are typically found in warehouses and other storage facilities, which means the problem may be one of poor storage and processing, and not at all related to harvesting issues. The American Spice Trade Association warns that food manufacturers often treat imported spices before marketing them, so the FDA findings do not mean that the spices sold to consumers are dangerous.

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