The UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) has confirmed it has implemented “extra control measures” on Indian spice imports following a recent contamination scare.

Natasha Smith, deputy director of food policy at the FSA, told Just Food in a statement the agency had applied these measures “for pesticide residues in spices from India which include ethylene oxide”.

She said: “The use of ethylene oxide is not allowed here, and maximum levels (maximum residue levels) are in place for herbs and spices. 

“If there is any unsafe food or food on the market, the FSA will take rapid action to ensure consumers are protected.”

Ethylene oxide is typically used overseas to control the presence of pathogens such as salmonella, the FSA said.

Earlier this month, Australia’s national food standards agency said it was looking into the possible contamination of spices manufactured by Indian brands Everest and MDH.

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Before that, food safety agencies in Hong Kong and Singapore issued recalls on three spice mixes from the brands last month.

Singapore suspended the sale of an Everest fish curry mix, while Hong Kong has forbidden sales of the same product, as well as three MDH spice blends.

The FSA, which said it introduced its measures in March, did not disclose any further details of its next steps.

Everest is based in Mumbai, while MDH is headquartered in Delhi. Both produce blended and grounded spices, among other products, which are supplied worldwide.

MDH released a statement on X on 28 April, denying the contamination claims.

The ground spices producer said: “We clarify and state unequivocally that these claims are untrue and lack any substantiating evidence.

“Additionally, MDH has not received any communication from regulatory authorities of Singapore or Hong Kong. Our statement is further supported by the fact that nodal regulatory authorities such as the Spice Board of India and FSSAl have not received any communication or test reports from Hong Kong or Singapore authorities regarding this matter. This reinforces the fact that the allegations against MDH are baseless, unsubstantiated, and not backed by any concrete evidence.”

They added: “We reassure our buyers and consumers that we do not use Ethylene Oxide (ETO) at any stage of storing, processing, or packing our spices.”

Just Food has contacted Everest for comment.