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SPICE EXPORTS and ETHYLENE OXIDE: SIMPLIFIER



  Jun 01, 2024

SPICE EXPORTS and ETHYLENE OXIDE: SIMPLIFIER



CURRENT STATUS OF INDIAN SPICE EXPORTS
India is a major player in the global spice market, exporting spices worth $4.4 billion in 2023-2024, marking a 12.3% increase from the previous financial year. Major exported spices include chilli, spice oils and oleoresins, curry powder and paste, cumin, mint products, cardamom, and pepper. Key markets for Indian spices are China, Bangladesh, West Asian countries, and the U.S.

WHY ETHYLENE OXIDE IS USED FOR STERILISATION
Ethylene Oxide (ETO) is used in India not as a pesticide but as a sterilising agent to reduce microbial load in finished spice goods. Contamination occurs in auction yards where spices are exposed to human, bird, reptile, and insect contact. High microbial levels in large factories necessitate the use of ETO for sterilisation. Early contamination reduction through improved processing can help lower reliance on ETO.

PREFERRED METHOD BY THE EU
The European Union prefers steaming over ETO for sterilising spices. While ETO is cost-effective at ₹5 per kg, steaming is significantly more expensive, ranging from ₹20 to ₹25 per kg. The EU's stringent standards for ETO and pesticide residue levels contrast with the more lenient regulations in the U.S., where ETO use is permitted.

IMPACT OF RECENT RECALL
Recently, certain spice products from MDH and Everest Group were recalled in Hong Kong and Singapore due to high levels of ETO. Despite the recall, exports to these countries have resumed, with no significant long-term impact expected. The recall highlights the need for stricter compliance with international food safety standards.

MEASURES TAKEN BY THE SPICES BOARD
Following the recall, the Spices Board issued protocols to prevent ETO contamination and mandated testing for ETO in consignments to Singapore and Hong Kong. The Board is also advocating for international standards on ETO usage to be harmonized across different countries.

CHEMISTRY BEHIND ETO AND STEAMING
Ethylene Oxide (ETO): ETO is a chemical compound used for sterilisation due to its ability to effectively kill bacteria, fungi, and viruses by disrupting their DNA. It is a gas at room temperature and penetrates deeply into materials, making it suitable for sterilising spices.

Steaming: Steaming uses high-temperature steam to kill microorganisms. This method is effective but more costly than ETO. It involves exposing spices to steam under controlled conditions, which eliminates microbial contaminants without leaving chemical residues.


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