In recently published study, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials conducted the analysis of the spices imported to the United States in the period from 2007 to 2009, in order to check their safety as a potential Salmonella source. Results marked that in general about 7 percent of imported spices are contaminated with Salmonella, which is considerably more that the average contamination of other imported food. Additionally, they found that Salmonella was wide-ranging in type diversity, compared with types commonly found on infected meat.
The study, published in journal Food Microbiology, documents the highest levels of contaminations in coriander shipments (15 percent), as well as in oregano and basil shipments (12 percent). Sesame seeds, curry powder, cumin, and black pepper were also infected in significant level. Generally, study concludes that “spices derived from fruit/seeds or leaves of plants were more contaminated than those derived from the bark/flower of spice plants.” The analysis was performed on more than 20,000 spice shipments. Whether the load was containing spice blends or only one kind, it did not make a difference in results.
Leading world and US spice supplier is India, and their shipments were found to be contaminated at the rate of 9 percent, which is right behind Mexico with a leading 14 percent contamination rate.
According to The New Yorker Times, FDA will soon release a complete analysis on this issue, based on this recent study. The problem is identified in spice cultivation and storage techniques, but there is a trend in Indian farmers to make the process safer when it comes to Salmonella contamination. Birds are marked to be the main carrier of Salmonella, but other animals and humans can also pass it in their feces or stool.
Every year, approximately 42,000 cases of Salmonella infection are reported in the United States, state the CDC, but because most people do not seek treatment the estimated number of infections may be 1.2 million or more. CDC underlines that Salmonella, compared with other foodborne germs, is the deadliest. In year 2011, 378 deaths were caused by this pathogen.
In most cases, people get infects through infected food. While Salmonella can contaminate almost every food type, the most common sources are any raw food of animal origin: meat, poultry, milk and dairy products, eggs. Incubation lasts from a few hours up to three days. Diarrhea (which may be bloody) and/or vomiting are usual symptoms, but sometimes chills and sweating caused by fever occur. In severe cases, stomach cramps and increased loss of fluids is possible. Most persons recover by their own, within 4 to 7 days, with only “treatment” of drinking plenty of fluids, but some do not, and they needs to be hospitalized and treated with antibiotics. Children, the elderly, and people with impaired immune systems are especially vulnerable groups.
There is no Salmonella vaccines for humans but the research in this filed is active. For now, in order to protect you from Salmonella infections, the most important is hygiene and thermal processing of foods, with the safe temperatures marked to be above 140F/60C. So, until FDA issues official advice, add your spices while cooking a meal, and do not add them fresh, unless you are sure about their safety.
By: Milica Zujko