Little Yadav
May 02, 2024

MDH and Everest continue to face brand scrutiny as new Australian ban looms

Following concerns in Hong Kong and Singapore, Australia and the US are now also investigating MDH and Everest Spices for suspected pesticide residues in their products, potentially leading to recalls.

MDH and Everest continue to face brand scrutiny as new Australian ban looms

The controversy over Indian spice brands, MDH and Everest, appears to be far from over on the international stage.

After incidents in Hong Kong and Singapore, where the spice brands faced scrutiny following bans on their products due to alleged carcinogenic chemical content, Australia too, has now raised concerns. 

On Tuesday, the nationa's food agency announced that using ethylene oxide for treating food is banned in Australia. They are now collaborating with global counterparts to delve deeper into the issue. Once they have a thorough understanding, consultations with federal, state, and territory food enforcement authorities will determine the necessity of any mandatory actions, which could include a recall of these spices.

However, this issue is not limited to Australia.

The US Food and Drug Administration is also collecting information about the two spice brands, while Indian authorities have requested explanations from both MDH and Everest and inspections now occuring in their facilities across India. The Indian government has also sought comprehensive reports from Hong Kong and Singapore about their findings.

The concerns voiced by various countries regarding the quality of these products and the ensuing bans could significantly threaten India's spice exports. MDH and Everest play a crucial role in this market.

This international concern prompted the Indian government to urge the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to establish clear guidelines on this issue. In a recent submission, India called for specific regulations based on scientific assessments of maximum residue limits (MRL). The report emphasised that the lack of clarity on MRLs is leading to non-tariff barriers against developing countries.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) defines MRL as the highest permissible level of pesticide residue in food and feed. The absence of global MRL guidelines has been problematic, particularly for countries like the US, which has faced challenges when exporting food products to the European Union.

On April 5, the Centre for Food Safety in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region conducted routine tests on these spices. They found excessive levels of ethylene oxide in MDH's Madras Curry Powder, Mixed Masala Powder, and Sambhar Masala. A similar issue was found in Everest's Fish Curry Masala, making these spices unfit for consumption. Vendors were immediately instructed to withdraw these products from sale.

About two weeks later, Singapore recalled Everest's Fish Curry Masala for similar reasons and instructed the importer to recall the products.

Ethylene oxide, a chemical classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, is mainly used in the production of other chemicals, including antifreeze. It is also used in smaller amounts as a pesticide and sterilising agent. Despite its effectiveness as a steriliser due to its ability to damage DNA, ethylene oxide is also known for its cancer-causing properties, which include potential risks of lymphoma, leukemia, and stomach and breast cancers.

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