USDA Seeks Comments on Spices, Culinary Herbs Standards

USDAs Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will hold a public meeting on Jan. 23, 2014, to provide information and receive public comments on agenda items, and draft U.S. positions that will be discussed during the first session of the Codex Committee on Spices and Culinary Herbs (CCSCH) of the Codex Alimentarius Commission.

WASHINGTONThe U.S. Department of Agricultures (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will hold a public meeting on Jan. 23, 2014, to provide information and receive public comments on agenda items, and draft U.S. positions that will be discussed during the first session of the Codex Committee on Spices and Culinary Herbs (CCSCH) of the Codex Alimentarius Commission. The session is scheduled for Feb. 11-14, 2014 in Kochi (Cochin), India.

The Jan. 23 meeting will be held at USDA headquarters in Washington D.C. The committee will discuss activities of International Organizations relevant to the work of CCSCH; work management modalities of the CCSCH; mechanisms for prioritization of the work; proposals for New York (replies to CL 2013/22-SCH); and matters referred by the Codex Alimentarius Commission and other Codex Committees and Task Forces.

According to the USDA, the United States is one of the worlds largest spice importers, bringing in 326 metric tons in 2012 valued at $1.1 billion. Of those imports, which account for more than 80% of the total U.S. spice supply, 19% came from India and 5% from Mexico.

CCSCH is hosted by India, and is responsible for promoting worldwide standards for spices and culinary herbs in their dried and dehydrated state in whole, ground, cracked or crushed form. The committee consults as necessary with other international organizations in the standards development process to avoid duplication. Written comments can be submitted to Kenneth Lowery, U.S. Codex Office, Room 4861, 1400 Independence Ave., Washington, D.C. 20250 or via e-mail at [email protected].

The issue of spices and food safety is a hot-button topic. In October 2013 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) completed a draft risk profile on pathogens and filth in spices. The agency found nearly 7% of spice imports were contaminated with Salmonella, and another 12% contained filth, including insects, rodent hairs and feces. The studys findings suggest that the presence of pathogens, such as Salmonella, and filth in spices is a systemic challenge. Failures identified in the farm-to-table food-safety system potentially leading to adulteration of consumed spice generally arose from poor/inconsistent application of appropriate preventive controls. The study identified 14 spice/seasoning-associated outbreaks worldwide that occurred from 1973 to 2010, resulting in less than 2,000 reported human illnesses and 128 hospitalizations worldwide.

A report released Jan. 23, 2013, by the US Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) revealed the incidences of food adulteration or food fraud" has risen a staggering 60% since 2010. Seafood, clouding agents and lemon juice were among the nearly 800 new records of food fraud" added to the USP Food Fraud Database, which tracks information about foods that are vulnerable to fraudulent manipulation in todays food supply.

The first iteration of the database compiled 1,300 records of food fraud published between 1980 and 2010. (See the Image Gallery: Food SafetyTainted & Adulterated Foods.) The new report increases the total number of records by 60%and consists mostly of newer information published in 2011 and 2012 in both scholarly journals and general media.

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