Canadian Spice Products are Far Less Contaminated than US Counterparts. But Buyer Beware!

Canadian Spice Products are Far Less Contaminated than US Counterparts. But Buyer Beware!


Earlier this month the FDA released a report showing extreme filth has been found by inspectors and 12% of imported herbs and spices. US inspectors found everything from mouse droppings and bat hair to insect parts and bird feathers reports the Washington Post.

The Canadian Government has assured the public that spices imported into Canada are much cleaner. “The CFIA has been sampling and testing spices for various allergens, chemical residues and microbiology concerns. To date, the results have indicated a high degree of compliance,” Elena Koutsavakis, a spokesperson for the agency, told the Toronto Star.

For the microbial testing program, a total of 1,434 samples of dried spices were tested between 2009-10 and 2012-13.  Of these, only two came back with positive results for salmonella. In the U.S., more than 80 different salmonella serotypes were isolated from spices in contaminated shipments during the three-year study period.
When asked what the Canadian regulations are concerning contaminants in spices, Koutsavakis said, “food safety is a top priority of the government of Canada. It is illegal for anyone to sell unsafe food in Canada.” Yes, and good luck with that.
As industry insiders, we have found most of the major spice distributors within Canada, including ourselves (The Epicentre) are extremely cautious. The spice industry employs a variety of equipment to physically clean spices, including air separators, sifters and spiral gravity separators that separate sticks, stones, hair, insects and other debris from the spice.  We have found however that small importing operations can be disturbingly high in contaminants.
A simple walk through Kensington Market in Toronto can reveal the problem. We found insect larvae in whole chile peppers and recently-hatched live white arachnids in plastic bags of spices for sale on store shelves. We’ve learned to temper our desire for the exotic with a very high level of quality control throughout our supply chain, requiring constant ingredient analysis and a natural steam pasteurization process.

Pumpkin is over-hyped. Its the spices you like!

Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte

Pumpkin is over-hyped. Its the spices you like!

What is it about pumpkin pie that makes it such an autumnal success? Well, its the perfect delivery mechanism for our favourite spices: allspice, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, mace and often a big whack of sugar.

Aside from the well-known Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte we see the market is now being flooded with pumpkin ales, pumpkin vodka, pumpkin smoothies, pumpkin pie Pop-Tarts, Sweet Harvest pumpkin tea by Celestial Seasonings and even innocent neighbourhood coffeehouses when the weather starts cooling. I’ve even read Pringles pumpkin pie spice chips are coming to a Walmart near you.

According to a recent New York Magazine article, “This year is on track to be one of the most active years for seasonal pumpkin menuing” and could top the 2011 record, when more than 60 pumpkin-related dishes appeared on the menus of America’s top 250 chain restaurants.”

Keep in mind that few of these products use actual pumpkins, or actual spices for that matter. The “pumpkin-flavoured” label is really quite forgiving and lets not forget about the colouring.

Suggestion. Order some of our Everything Nice spice and add it to your coffee filter, whip some into ice-cream or any baking for a pumpkin pie spice experience without all the chemical additives.