The European Commission published today the results of the first coordinated control plan on the authenticity of herbs and spices launched by the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety.
It has been carried out by 21 EU Member States, Switzerland and Norway, with the technical support of the Joint Research Centre, which performed nearly 10,000 analyses. The plan is the largest investigation so far into the authenticity of culinary herbs and spices in terms of participating countries and samples analysed (1885).
The main conclusions were as follows:
- The overall rate of suspicious samples was 17% (323 of a total of 1885 analysed samples), which is less than what was previously reported in the scientific literature or by national food control institutions.
- The oregano supply chain was most vulnerable as 48% of samples were suspicious of being adulterated, in most cases with olive leaves.
- The percentage of samples which were suspicious of adulteration were 17% for pepper, 14% for cumin, 11% for curcuma, and 11% for saffron.
- The lowest suspicion rate (6%) was found for paprika/chilli.
- The majority of suspicious samples contained non-declared plant material; in 2% of the analysed spice samples non-authorised dyes were detected. One sample contained a high level of lead chromate.
- In two cumin, 45 oregano, and four pepper samples copper compounds above the relevant maximum residue limit set by Regulation (EC) No 396/2005 were found.
- No specific trend regarding the rate of potential fraudulent manipulations along the supply chain (countries of origin/importers/wholesalers/processors/packagers) could be observed. However, for certain stages (domestic production, local markets, border control, and internet) the number of samples tested was too low to enable statistically meaningful comparisons.
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