After Singapore, Hong Kong has emerged as the second region to place a ban on the sale of popular Indian spice brands ‘Everest’ and ‘MDH’ after alleging that the carcinogenic pesticide ethylene oxide has been found in several of their spice mixes.

MDH Everest masala spice
Image of MDH’s popular Sambhar masala and Everest’s Fish Curry masala. (Photo: MDH Pvt Ltd and Everest Food Products Pvt Ltd )

Last week, Singapore took a similar step, alleging that samples of Everest spices, when tested, were found to contain ethylene oxide beyond permissible limits.

The government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s Centre for Food Safety (CFS) announced that, in routine surveillance programs, they found the presence of ethylene oxide in three spice mixes belonging to MDH Group: Madras Curry Powder, Sambhar Masala Powder, and Curry Powder.

Meanwhile, the Spices Board of India stated on Monday that it is investigating the ban imposed by Hong Kong and Singapore on the sale of four spice-mix products of Indian brands MDH and Everest, which allegedly contain the pesticide ‘ethylene oxide’ beyond permissible limits.

While the food safety regulator of Hong Kong has advised consumers not to buy these products and traders not to sell them, the Singapore Food Agency has directed a recall of the products.

In another report, the government has ordered food commissioners to collect samples of spices from all manufacturing units in the country after food regulators in Hong Kong and Singapore flagged a cancer-causing ingredient in certain products of two popular Indian spice brands – MDH and Everest.

“All the food commissioners of the country have been alerted. The process of collecting spice samples has been initiated. The order has been issued. Within three to four days, samples will be collected from all spice manufacturing units in the country,” reported top government sources to news channel NDTV.

“Not only MDH and Everest, but samples will also be taken from all spice manufacturing companies. The lab report will be available in about 20 days,” they added.

The food regulators of Hong Kong and Singapore have warned against using four products from these two spice brands due to the alleged presence of ethylene oxide at “levels exceeding the permissible limit”. Ethylene oxide has been classified as a ‘Group 1 carcinogen’ by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Hong Kong’s Centre for Food Safety (CFS) stated that three spice products of MDH – Madras Curry Powder, Sambhar Masala, and Curry Powder – along with Everest’s Fish Curry Masala contain “a pesticide, ethylene oxide.” The regulator instructed vendors “to stop the sale and remove from shelves the affected products.”

Meanwhile, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) also ordered a recall of Everest’s Fish Curry Masala due to the presence of ethylene oxide at levels “exceeding the permissible limit”. The SFA posted a release on its website on April 18, stating that it “has directed the importer, Sp Muthiah & Sons Pte. Ltd., to recall the products. The recall is ongoing.”

“Strict action will be taken”
There is a ban on using ethylene oxide in food items in India, according to NDTV.

“Strict action will be taken if harmful substances are found in Indian spices. There is a provision for criminal proceedings also,” the news channel cited sources as saying.

The government has appealed to the Spices Board, under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, to spread awareness that no harmful elements should be added to the products.

The board has said it was looking into the ban imposed by Hong Kong and Singapore on the sale of four spices-mix products of Indian brands. “We are looking into the matter. We are at it,” the news channel quoted Spices Board of India Director AB Rema Shree.

The sources reportedly said that they had been testing samples even before the incidents in Hong Kong and Singapore and claimed that no harmful elements have been found in the spices of different brands available in the Indian market so far.

“This is a continuous process of sampling. This time we will take samples more quickly and in greater numbers than whatever samples we were taking earlier,” they said.

What is ethylene oxide?
The Spices Board defines ethylene oxide as a “flammable, colourless gas at temperatures above 10.7 Celsius. It serves as a “disinfectant, fumigant, sterilising agent and insecticide”.

It is mainly used to sterilize medical equipment and to reduce microbial contamination in spices.

Besides being produced from natural sources, it can also be generated from water-logged soil, manure, and sewage sludge.

Health effects of ethylene oxide
The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies ethylene oxide as a ‘Group 1 carcinogen’, meaning it has “enough evidence to conclude that it can cause cancer in humans”.

Short-term exposure to the carcinogen can affect the human central nervous system, and cause depression and irritation of the eyes and mucous membranes but prolonged exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs, and damage the brain and nervous system, as per the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In 2022-23 fiscal, India exported spices worth nearly Rs 32,000 crore. Chilli, cumin, spice oil and oleoresins, turmeric, curry powder and cardamom are major spices exported.

MTNews Desk

One thought on “Indian spice brands ‘Everest’ and ‘MDH’ banned in Hong Kong and Singapore over carcinogenic pesticide allegations”
  1. 🚫🌶️ Hong Kong and Singapore have banned MDH and Everest spices due to the presence of carcinogenic pesticide ethylene oxide. India’s taking action to ensure spice safety. Let’s prioritize food safety! #BannedSpices #FoodSafety 🛑👩‍⚕️

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *