In response to recent bans imposed by Singapore and Hong Kong on specific spice exports due to the presence of ethylene oxide, the All India Spices Exporters Forum (AISEF) has stepped forward to address concerns regarding food safety and export quality standards.

While AISEF reaffirmed its commitment to upholding the highest quality and safety standards in spice exports from India, the forum emphasised the importance of legalising ethylene oxide (EtO) treatment for spices in India.

Sanjeev Bisht, Chairman of AISEF, said the inability of Indian exporters to supply EtO-treated spices may have detrimental effects on India’s position in the global spice market, potentially leading to a loss of market share to competing origins.

Sterilising agent

Ethylene oxide is not a pesticide molecule and serves as a sterilising agent to ensure the absence of pathological microbes in agricultural products, including spices. It is approved for use in many countries, including the US, Canada, and Singapore, with varying maximum residue levels.

Also read: Spices Board issues guidelines to exporters to prevent ethylene oxide contamination

Contrary to misconceptions, EtO sterilisation is preferred by many customers as it preserves the intrinsic qualities of spices, such as volatile oil and flavour, unlike alternative methods such as heat treatment.

According to the US-EPA, spices treated with EtO do not present risks of concern. Ethylene oxide is produced by the human body when metabolising ethylene. Moreover, it is also naturally produced by plants during the ripening process, further highlighting its safety and natural occurrence.

Volatile compound

Additionally, EtO is a volatile organic compound that dissipates rapidly in the environment, with residue levels reduced to trace levels within days of treatment. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) study published on January 11, 2012 confirms that its half-life in air is only 38 days.

Also read: Spices Board mandates testing of exports to Hong Kong, Singapore

AISEF urged against the spread of misinformation, emphasising the need for a united front to protect the credibility of the Indian spice industry.

The forum remains committed to working closely with regulatory authorities and industry stakeholders to ensure that spices exported from India meet all quality requirements specified by importing countries, the statement said.