FSSAI will examine spice quality in India following an alert from Hong Kong regarding MDH and Everest Products.

More on News:

  • Recent reports from Hong Kong and Singapore led to the withdrawal of spice mixes from two major Indian manufacturers, MDH and Everest.
  • It was done due to high levels of the carcinogen (more-than-permissible limits) of ethylene oxide contamination in the spice mixes.
  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has directed all states to collect samples of powdered spices for random testing.
  • FSSAI does not permit the use of ethylene oxide in any food product within India. However, the regulation does not extend to exported products. 
  • Currently, spice exports to these countries necessitate compulsory screening for the carcinogen Aflatoxin and the dyes Sudan I-IV. However, shipments bound for the European Union and the United Kingdom require mandatory Ethylene Oxide (ETO) testing.

Ethylene Oxide (ETO):

It is a colourless, highly flammable and reactive gas. It is used in various industrial processes, including:

  • Sterilization of medical equipment
  • As an effective pesticide against bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
  • Production of antifreeze
  • Manufacturing of textiles
  • It has been Classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI):

Establishment and Authority:

  • An autonomous body under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Govt. of India.
  • Established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.


  • Regulate food safety protocols to protect public health.
  • Establish standards and guidelines for food.
  • License, register, and accredit food businesses.
  • Monitor compliance, especially in food imports.
  • Accredit food testing labs nationwide.
  • Responsible for food certification and specifying systems for enforcing standards.

Global Context:

  • European Union (EU): Its banned the use of ethylene oxide in 2011 for fumigation of food and animal feed during transport and storage.  It is now limited to disinfecting and sterilising medical devices.

Health Impacts of ETO:

  • Ethylene oxide can cause DNA damage during sterilisation procedures.
  • Exposure to ethylene oxide, even at low levels, poses health risks.
  • Chronic exposure through regular consumption of contaminated spices may increase the risk of various cancers (e.g., leukemia, stomach, breast), respiratory issues, and other health problems.


  • Consumers have been advised to avoid identified products and seek alternatives with transparent safety profiles.
  • Rigorous testing is recommended by all the involved brands in the industry.


Ethylene oxide contamination in spice mixes poses significant health risks. Stringent measures are needed to ensure food safety and consumer health. Awareness and regulatory actions are crucial to address the issue effectively.

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