Who knew spices could be so dangerous? When it comes to food contamination, I always think of perishables -- meat, dairy, cantaloupe. But the FDA says about 12 percent of our imported spices are tainted with all kinds of gross junk. What kinds of gross junk? Oh you know, rodent hairs, insect parts, salmonella (7 percent for that last one). The FDA is calling it a "wake-up call" for spice producers, which ... no shit. Just when you thought it was safe to cook, just when you got a handle on cooking temperatures for meat and what sell-by dates really mean -- now we have to worry about our SPICES?
If you're not too overwhelmed by your disappointment and irritation, here's a few things you should know about spices and contamination.
First, the contamination happens in the storage and shipping process, not in the production of the spices. So at least spice companies know which areas need fixing now. The two countries that export the most contaminated spices are Mexico and India. Coincidentally, that's where a lot of our spices come from anyway. Oh well.
As for the most contaminated spices, it appears hot spices like paprika and dried peppers are the worst, while black pepper is the cleanest. Hope you like food that tastes like the 1950s!
But wait, the American Spice Trade Association says the FDA tested spices before they're treated for export to the US, which is apparently a thing that happens to many spices. Maybe. Hopefully? I'm sorry, this sounds a little dodgy to me. Just fix it, guys. Okay? Fix it, whatever it is.
At any rate, I don't even know what the safety measure for dealing with potentially tainted spices would be. Cooking your food thoroughly will solve the salmonella problem, usually. Otherwise, I guess a little spider leg never killed anyone (ugh). You know what the worst thing about this is? Now all those people with super bland taste are feeling all smug.
Do you use a lot of spices in your cooking?
Image via Clyde Robinson/Flickr