Wake Up Call

FDA Reports High Levels of Lead in Imported Spice

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration announced Fahman Enterprises Inc. of Dallas was voluntarily recalling Pran Turmeric Powder after the product was found to have "high levels" of lead. The spice, which was distributed in Dallas, was imported from Bangladesh.

The recall has now prompted the FDA to look at updating the rules on imported spices and herbs.

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There have been increasing problems with contaminated imported spices. Last month, the FDA rejected 19 shipments of imported spices due to contamination -- many tested positive for salmonella.

After testing, 400 gram packets of Fahman turmeric powder were found to have lead levels of 48 parts per million. To give some perspective of just how high that is, in Bangladesh the permissible limit of lead is 2.5 parts per million.

So far, the FDA reports no complaints have been filed in relation to the powder, but lead can built up in the body and cause serious health issues. Those problems can include developmental physical disabilities and learning deficiencies.

According to the USDA, more than 90 percent of spices in the United States are imported. And many imported spices also get used in pre-packaged foods, which aren't required to be labeled with the ingredients' countries of origin.

"Many spices are treated to reduce contamination but spices in general are not risk-free," FDA spokeswoman Shelly Burgess said in a statement to ABC News. "Consumers concerned about the safety of spices used in the home should add spices during cooking rather than adding them at the table. It's also important to follow basic food-handling practices -- cook, chill, clean, and separate."

According to bdnews24.com, the company blames the soil in Bangladesh for the lead in its product. But Professor Rafiqul Islam of the Department of Soil Science at Bangladesh Agricultural University told the news outlet that "the level of lead in our country's soil is not toxic at all."

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Lauren Saria
Contact: Lauren Saria