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MDH was rejected by US in Hong Kong before being suspended: report

MDH was rejected by US in Hong Kong before being suspended: report

Ethylene oxide is unsuitable for human consumption and poses a cancer risk with prolonged exposure.

Hyderabad:

Popular Indian spice brand MDH, which is under scrutiny for alleged contamination in some products, has had an average of 14.5 percent of its U.S. shipments rejected due to the presence of bacteria since 2021, a Reuters analysis of U.S. regulatory data found.

Hong Kong last month suspended sales of three spice blends from MDH and one from another Indian company, Everest, because they appeared to contain high levels of a cancer-causing pesticide. Ethylene oxide is unsuitable for human consumption and poses a cancer risk with prolonged exposure.

The companies said their products are safe, and MDH added that ethylene oxide is not used at any stage of storage, processing or packaging of spices. Authorities in the US, Australia and India are investigating the matter. Both brands are popular in India and exported across the world.

India is the world’s largest spice producer and also the largest consumer and exporter of spices. Zion Market Research estimates that India’s domestic market was worth $10.44 billion in 2022 and the Spices Board said India exported products worth $4 billion in 2022-23.

Prior to the recent audit, products from MDH, a more than 100-year-old Indian family-owned company, were refused sale in the United States due to the presence of salmonella, a bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal illness.

Around 20%, or 13, of MDH’s 65 shipments to the United States were rejected after the company failed salmonella checks between October 2023 – when the current fiscal year began – and May 3, according to the most recent data available by Reuters were compiled by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA did not specify how much was contained in each shipment, but the 13 rejected shipments contained mixed spices and seasonings as well as fenugreek, according to the data.

In fiscal year 2022-23, about 15 percent of MDH’s 119 shipments were rejected primarily because of salmonella contamination, while rejections were 8.19% in 2021-22, the data showed.

Everest has seen fewer rejections in the United States, with only one in 450 shipments rejected due to salmonella so far in the current 2023/24 year.

About 3.7 percent of Everest’s U.S. shipments were stopped in 2022-23, and there were no rejections of the 189 shipments to the U.S. the year before, the data showed.

When asked about the FDA data, an MDH spokesperson said its products are safe. Everest said it experienced an “exceptional” rejection rate of its U.S. shipments of less than 1% in the 2023-2024 fiscal year, adding that its products were safe.

The U.S. FDA and Spices Board did not respond to requests for comment. The board has reviewed the MDH and Everest facilities for compliance with quality standards, but the results have not yet been released.

MDH and Everest have been among the largest spice manufacturers in India for decades, producing products that are widely used in home kitchens and restaurants to flavor curries and many other dishes.

In 2019, some batches of MDH’s seasoning mix were removed from shelves in the United States due to salmonella contamination, and in 2023, the FDA recalled some Everest products due to similar results and issued a public health warning.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)