India Pepper and Spice Trade Association (IPSTA) has urged the Spices Board, FSSAI and traders association to work together to allow ethylene oxide (ETO) as per requirement of importing countries and remove misconceptions that ETO is a pesticide.

ETO treatment is safe to use in spices, food products and medical accessories and it is not harmful for human consumption as it naturally occurs in many plants. It is known to preserve colour, aroma, taste and natural oils present in spices than other sterilisation methods, a press release said. “We affirm that the quality of spices exported from India is of best quality and exporters are maintaining the quality standards of different importing countries,” IPSTA said.

About ETO

IPSTA’s clarification comes in the wake of reports that certain spice products of some companies are banned due to the presence of ETO in their products. IPSTA said ETO is not a pesticide but a sterilising agent used in containing microbial elements in spices and food products.

ETO is a colourless gas with a sweet odour, which is used primarily for producing other chemicals, including antifreeze. It is also used as a sterilizing agent, due to its ability to damage DNA. ETO is also used in hospitals and the medical equipment industry to sterilize heat-sensitive tools and equipment, such as disposable plastic syringes.

Use of ETO is permitted largely by many countries with varied residue levels and this is maintained properly. The exporting community and the spices industry will face huge cancellation of orders if they are not allowed to sterilize their products as required by importing countries such as USA, Canada and other countries with varied residue levels, IPSTA said.