FSSAI Orders Fresh Quality Checks On Everest, MDH Products

The move comes after Hong Kong and Singapore have banned the sale of curry spices from the companies after detecting the carcinogenic pesticide ethylene oxide in them.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Image for representation (Source:&nbsp;<a href=";utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_source=unsplash">Tamanna Rumee</a> on <a href=";utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_source=unsplash">Unsplash</a>)</p></div>
Image for representation (Source: Tamanna Rumee on Unsplash)

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has initiated a new round of quality assessments on products from spice manufacturers, including MDH Pvt. and Everest Food Products Pvt., to verify compliance with FSSAI standards, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The move comes after Hong Kong and Singapore have banned the sale of Everest and MDH spice mix after detecting the carcinogenic pesticide, ethylene oxide, in them. They have recalled samples of four products including MDH’s Madras curry powder, sambhar masala powder, curry powder mixed masala powder, along with Everest’s fish curry masala.

Ethylene oxide, a pesticide known to cause cancer when consumed in excess of permissible limits, is prohibited for use in food products in India.

No harmful chemicals have been found in the spices of different brands available in the Indian market yet, the person quoted above said.

Nearly 1.23 lakh food samples were analysed in 2023-24, uncovering 24,794 samples that failed to meet the required standards, according to FSSAI's provisional data. Out of this, 38,661 were spices, including 479 samples of curry powder and 3,478 samples of mixed masala.

However, the FSSAI has initiated a fresh probe on spices manufactured in all units across the country. Samples are being collected to assess if the products meet the FSSAI standards for chemical residue, as mandated by law. The regulator has instructed state food commissioners to gather samples for testing in accredited labs to identify the presence of pesticide ethylene oxide. A decision on further action can be expected in 15-20 days.

Violating guidelines may result in criminal proceedings being initiated and strict actions will be taken, according to top government officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

An enforcement activity report from FSSAI revealed that a total of 1,77,511 food samples were tested for chemical adulteration and compliance with regulatory standards in 2022-23. Shockingly, nearly 45,000 of these samples were found to be non-conforming, with 6,579 labeled as unsafe and 21,917 categorised as substandard. Additionally, 16,130 samples were flagged for mislabeling or deceptive packaging.

A total of Rs 36 crore in penalties were imposed for non-compliance, with Rs 33 crore collected under civil cases and Rs 3 crore under criminal cases, the data showed. The authority has also recorded 29,834 convictions. It, however, didn't disclose the brand names.

Officials have also clarified that products being exported do not fall under the jurisdiction of FSSAI. It is typically the responsibility of the importing country to conduct testing on the products and determine whether they can be allowed entry, according to them.

Separately, the Spices Board of India Director AB Rema Shree said that the board is looking into the ban imposed by Hong Kong and Singapore on the sale of four spices-mix products of Everest and MDH.

"Food safety is our top priority, and all our products undergo stringent quality control checks," a spokesperson of Everest Food Products said, in response to NDTV Profit's queries. "Exports are cleared only after receiving necessary clearances and approval from the laboratories of the Spice Board of India."

The spokesperson also clarified that their products are still available in Singapore and Hong Kong. Only one out of 60 Everest products have been held by the Singapore food safety authority for examination. "This [action] is a standard procedure and not a ban."

MDH Pvt. is yet to respond to NDTV Profit's queries.