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Food Safety

Herbs and spices (2019-2021)

Results of first EU-wide survey about herbs and spices authenticity

The European Commission has published the results of the first coordinated control plan on the authenticity of herbs and spices launched by Directorate-general for Health and Food Safety and carried out by 21 EU Member States, Switzerland and Norway.

This was the first time national authorities in charge of food controls and the European Commission pooled their experience and resources together to focus on the herbs and spices sector. The goal was to protect consumers from misleading and potentially unsafe products.

Nearly 10,000 analyses were carried out by the JRC on 1885 samples, using a range of state-of-the-art analytical techniques to assess the authenticity of six different herbs and spices.

The percentage of samples which were deemed at risk of adulteration were 17% for pepper, 14% for cumin, 11% for curcuma, 11% for saffron and 6% for paprika/chilli. Oregano was identified as the most vulnerable with 48% of samples at risk of contamination, with olive leaves in most cases.

Authenticity and purity of herbs and spices were assessed against relevant ISO standards. In case a sample did not comply with these provisions for extraneous matter and total ash, it was considered to be suspicious of adulteration.

On the basis of these results the Commission has already called on the operators for an immediate action plan to rectify the situation that is harmful to consumers’ interests and health, but also to the herbs and spices sector itself and its fair operators.

The Commission also invited national authorities to increase official controls in the sector, with the aim to prevent  fraudulent practices and sanction fraud perpetrators.

Read the JRC report

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