But unfortunately, major media outlets can’t help themselves from jumping on this study and spreading some fear. At least, the NY Times article’s title ‘Spices’ Link to Food Ills Prompts Changes in Farming’ wasn’t overly misleading. But from that article, other news outlets had their own spin in order to ‘one-up’ the other. Let’s take a look at these titles.
From NPR, we have ‘ Your Kitchen Spices Can Often Harbor Salmonella’. The title suggests something that is completely inaccurate. Even the reader’s comments at the bottom of the article (you can connect to the link on the article below to read) indicate that these readers know that this is over-the-top fear mongering.
NPR is not the only one. LA Weekly has an article “Spices a Potent Source of Food Poisoning”. Not to be outdone MSN News has - Rumor: Common kitchen spices contain salmonella’ and goes on to state that this rumor is true. No it is not.
Certainly there have been a few incidents that contaminated spices have resulted in illnesses, but these were extremely isolated and due to unique circumstances. Going back to look at the original study, there are few things we can see in this FDA study which was published in Food Microbiology that warrant comment :
- The sampling in the study primarily evaluated untreated spices which had a higher level of contamination…as we would expect. Will those spices be treated at some point during further processing….probably yes?
- We don’t know the type of importer for the spices that were found positive. Were the major spice companies, or smaller importers? Companies with familiar brands names must protect those brands, and thus will have solid quality and safety programs including preventive control measures. But unfortunately, this study does not indicate they type of company. And the news articles then lump all spice companies together.
This is not to say that these companies representing major brands will not have the occasional issue, but they are few and far between. So as I put pepper on my pizza tonight, I will not worry about Salmonella contamination. Will you worry about the spices in your cabinet? Probably not.
The real take home from the FDA study is that companies who import spices need to have preventive controls in place to ensure the safety of those items.
Your Kitchen Spices Can Often Harbor Salmonella
by Nancy Shute
August 29, 2013 3:16 PM
NPR – The Salt
Spice may be nice, but spices also can carry very bad bugs. About 7 percent of spices tested by Food and Drug Administration researchers were contaminated with salmonella, which can cause serious illness and death. Because of this finding and others, the FDA and international food safety organizations are putting more effort into how to reduce the risk.
A New York Times
article this week really brought the issue to everyone's attention. Here are some of the questions we've been asking about spices and salmonella here at The Salt: