The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has ordered a pan-India sampling and testing drive of spices products of various brands to check on safety and quality parameters. In a separate move, samples of infant nutrition products are also being lifted for testing to ensure they are in adherence with the country’s norms and regulations, according to government sources.

FSSAI has directed food safety commissioners across States and UTs to pick up samples from major manufacturing units of spice product companies, officials stated. These samples will be sent to NABL-accredited labs for testing on quality and safety standards.

This move comes after Hong Kong’s Centre for Food Safety asked consumers not to consume and traders not to sell three spice products of brand MDH and one spice product of brand Everest allegedly over presence of a pesticide called ethylene oxide on April 5. This was followed by the Singapore Food Agency recalling Everest’s Fish Curry Masala allegedly over presence of ethylene oxide “at levels exceeding permissible limits”, on April 18.

Stating that use of ethylene oxide is banned in India, sources added that if any spice brand is found to be flouting norms, strict action will be taken against the manufacturing company. . FSSAI is tasked with enforcement of standards and regulations only in the domestic market. Spice Board of India evaluates spice products prior to exports and is also expected to look into this issue.

infant nutrition

Meanwhile, the food safety authority will also conduct testing of samples of infant nutrition products being sold in the country. This comes after a report by Swiss NGO Public Eye has raised concerns regarding “added sugar” levels in infant cereal products sold by Nestle in India and other developing markets.

According to FSSAI regulations, “Lactose and glucose polymers shall be the preferred carbohydrates for food for infant nutrition. Sucrose and/or fructose shall not be added, unless needed as a carbohydrate source, and provided the sum of these does not exceed 20 per cent of total carbohydrate.”

Sources added that while this is a global report, FSSAI is looking into the matter to ensure infant nutrition products sold in India are adhering to the country’s norms and standards.  

Nestle India has stated that it is in compliance with CODEX standards and local nutrient specifications including “added sugars”.

FSSAI has been stepping up enforcement activities involving sample collection and testing over the past four years. In FY 22-23, 1.77 lakh samples were tested under various enforcement drives.