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Gaudiya Discussions Archive » HEALTH, TRAVEL, ENVIRONMENT
Health, travel, environment and other related topics. Tips and tricks for keeping your body in shape for spiritual life. Taking care of your health while traveling in India.

Poisonous colours mixed in Indian spices - warning of a recent finding in Germany

nabadip - Fri, 12 Nov 2004 20:37:08 +0530
A short note in a consumers magazine said not long ago that tests done by a German Government agency revealed that an Indian Masala commercially imported contained a cancer-causing chemical, in the form of a yellow color. Also in a Chili powder a red color was found. Names of brands were not mentioned in that publication.

I think it is interesting to know that a chemical is cheaper than Chili-powder...

The way around the masala-disaster is to make one's own Curcuma-powder. Does anyone have experience with this-- buying the root and grinding it on one's own... ?
Malatilata - Fri, 12 Nov 2004 21:13:05 +0530
I wonder what is the bright yellow color, that they use to color the dal in India. At least in Vrindavan when I bought dal, it was bright yellow, and I had to wash it at least ten times to get the color off. huh.gif

I am thinking of bringing my own spices from here, when we go to India, as well as other foodstuffs. The spices in India often have also small stones in them, and one can break ones teeth by using them. sad.gif

Madhava - Fri, 12 Nov 2004 21:36:25 +0530
I love going to the dham, but some of this stuff is really proving to be a major annoyance. What a shame.
braja - Fri, 12 Nov 2004 23:03:57 +0530
QUOTE(nabadip @ Nov 12 2004, 10:07 AM)
The way around the masala-disaster is to make one's own Curcuma-powder. Does anyone have experience with this-- buying the root and grinding it on one's own... ?

I've seen people try! It's very hard to grind as the pieces retain a bounciness to them. So you bang away but they don't turn to powder. Might be better off buying fresh tumeric if you can find it. It is great stuff, very easy to cut small pieces into dahl or milk or even eat straight for health reasons too. The taste is surprisingly mellow. We can also get organic powdered tumeric here which, judging by lack of a vibrant yellow hue, doesn't have any colorings.

In general India seems to be something of a dumping ground for chemicals that have been banned elsewhere. I've heard reports that pesticides such as 245T and DDT were dumped there after being banned in other countries.
braja - Sat, 13 Nov 2004 03:00:45 +0530
Had a disastrous day today with car troubles and a doctor's visit but while driving around I listened to an environmental show by a pathologist. He spoke about the usual nasty pollutants--mercury, PCBs, lead--but then went on to talk about the proliferation of dollar stores that carry so many items from India and Pakistan and how those items are manufactured without any regard to safety regulations. (He specifically mentioned those two countries and one other that I don't recall.)

nabadip - Wed, 04 May 2005 16:55:54 +0530
UK to test all chilli, turmeric
from Asian Age

London, May 3, 2005: All imports of spices, including chilli powder and turmeric from countries like India, into Britain are to be subjected to rigorous new tests after concern that they contain illegal dyes linked to cancer.

Testing may begin as early as Friday and the spice test list will be finalised by this week. The UKs Food Standards Agency is insisting on the stringent import checks after Sudan I and Para Red, carcinogenic chemical dyes banned from the food chain in Europe, were found in a batch of chilli powder, allegedly traced back to India, and paprika on sale in Britain. The authorities here believe they could also have been used to colour cayenne pepper and turmeric.

"We will be working with the food industry to take this forward. The agency believes that any risk to the general public is likely to be very small," an FSA spokesperson said.

The decision to test all spices on entry to Britain threatens to throw the UK catering industry into chaos. Supermarkets and corner shops will have substantial quantities of food recalled if test results prove positive. The checks have been ordered even as the alarm over two more industrial textile dyes is raised by the European Commission. Rhodamine B and Orange II, which are also linked to cancer, are being used illicitly in food and spices. They have been detected in chilli powder imported from Vietnam and in food in Germany.

Further concern focuses on a spice called Sumak, in whichtraces of the dyes have been discovered. The Turkish ingredient is commonly used to flavour Middle Eastern dishes, particularly doner kebabs. The FSA said that it was carrying out additional surveillance work in order to identify the scale of the problem. FSA chief executive Jon Bell has demanded extra screening after certificates from overseas suppliers guaranteeing that their products were free from contaminants were found to be inaccurate.

Only independent tests can verify the contents of supplies and help enforcement agencies throughout Europe to identify the source of these illicit dyes.

The FSA spokesperson confirmed that an import testing plan would be developed this week. Several companies concerned about Para Red contamination have already submitted their products for tests at research centres.
Kulapavana - Wed, 04 May 2005 17:33:49 +0530
I work for a commercial analytical laboratory and we do mostly environmental pollution tests. Not only are these oriental spices adulterated with non-food grade chemicals but they are also fumigated - mostly with ethylene dibromide (EDB) - for cross border trade. EDB is extremely toxic and always leaves residue in the porous spices and herbs. I recommend avoiding ALL fumigated herbs and spices.
braja - Wed, 04 May 2005 19:41:50 +0530
QUOTE(Kulapavana @ May 4 2005, 08:03 AM)
I recommend avoiding ALL fumigated herbs and spices.

Yikes. So that would also include imported whole spices, such as cumin, mustard seeds, etc.?

What of rice, dhal, channa, etc.--are they also subjected to fumigation?
Kulapavana - Wed, 04 May 2005 19:56:50 +0530
QUOTE(braja @ May 4 2005, 10:11 AM)
QUOTE(Kulapavana @ May 4 2005, 08:03 AM)
I recommend avoiding ALL fumigated herbs and spices.

Yikes. So that would also include imported whole spices, such as cumin, mustard seeds, etc.?

What of rice, dhal, channa, etc.--are they also subjected to fumigation?

yes, they are all fumigated (or irradiated, which might also be bad), but the amount of toxic residue is related to the porosity of the product. less porous substances (like rice or dahl) will have very little residue. cooking in water removes most of the EDB residues as well, but EDB freely dissolves in oil (massala! ohmy.gif ) and remains in the preparation after cooking.

I also make and sell herbal tinctures (including my world-famous anti-parasitic tincture, wildly popular with all travellers to the Dhaam laugh.gif ), but I avoid imported herbs like a plague (I grow or wildcraft most of my own herbs). Not only they are fumigated, but often come from very polluted areas (like roadsides) and can be loaded with heavy metals and pesticides.
nabadip - Wed, 04 May 2005 20:31:33 +0530
One of my favorite foods from India is bitter gourd (Kerela) which I buy occasionally in an Asian shop. After I saw how long it kept fresh in the fridge (rather long, that is) I thought I better renounce their great taste, since they must be sprayed with fungicides and other chemicals.

Now, before posting here I checked on the possible toxicity of Basmati rice, which I also eat regularly, and one site with elaborate toxicity warnings actually recommends Basmati if a white rice is to be chosen.

But I cam accross this horrendous info on strawberries (obviously not from India, but within India they are now also available at fruit markets, which means they must nothing but chemical sad.gif ).

here the bit on strawberries:

#1 Strawberries
Strawberry growers everywhere use large amounts of pesticides, particularly fungicides. The end result is a popular fruit that contains a myriad of toxic chemicals. Of the 42 fruits and vegetables we examined, strawberries ranked first in combined contamination, with 189 out of 200 possible points. Seventy percent of the strawberry samples tested positive for one or more pesticides, and 36 percent contained two or more chemicals, including 19 samples with four pesticides, four samples with five, and one with six different pesticides. The FDA detected 30 different pesticides on strawberries, second only to apples with 36. More significantly, however, is the toxicity of the pesticides detected and the percentage of the crop and levels at which they are found. Based on the results of 361 samples of strawberries by the FDA over a two year period: One in four strawberries contained captan, a probable human carcinogen; One in four strawberries contained benomyl, a reproductive toxin and possible human carcinogen; One in four strawberries contained vinclozolin, a fungicide that blocks the functioning of the male hormone androgen; Nearly one in five contained iprodione, a probable human carcinogen, and; More than one in six contained endosulfan, and relative of DDT that mimics the hormone estrogen in the human body. Strawberries had the highest average levels by far of pesticides that disrupt the endocrine system. The mean amount of endocrine disrupters was more than 20 percent higher than the next vegetable, spinach. The carcinogenic potency of the average residue on strawberries ranked seventh overall. The neurotoxic potency of the pesticides on strawberries was 15th out of the 42 produce items evaluated.
nabadip - Wed, 04 May 2005 20:43:36 +0530
Spinach (Sri Gauranga's favorite vegetable) is the third most contaminated food on the market:

#3 Spinach
Spinach has residues of fewer pesticides than other crops in the list of the twelve most contaminated, but the concentrations for certain cancer-causing and endocrine disrupting chemicals are considerably higher than those for other produce. Just over 50 percent of the spinach samples tested positive for one of 17 different pesticides. Seventeen percent contained two to four pesticides. The most commonly detected pesticide on spinach was permethrin, a possible human carcinogen and endocrine disrupter. Permethrin was found in relatively large amounts, which helped make spinach second only to strawberries in the total mean residue of endocrine disrupters and reproductive toxins. The neurotoxic potency of the average residue, in contrast, was 28th out of the 42 crops tested. The cancer potency of the average total residue on spinach was the highest of any of the produce analyzed. And actual levels of carcinogens on spinach are likely to be higher than we estimated. One reason is that chlorothanonil, a probable human carcinogen, was found at relatively high levels on several spinach samples. The FDA, however, tested only 17 out of 189 samples for chlorothalonil. Because of our sample size requirement of 20 per pesticide/crop combination, these results were not included in the overall ranking. Spinach also had relatively high levels of DDT (See Sidebar,) which was found in 10 percent of 186 samples.

In the U.S. the food choice is clear, you must take organic bhoga. I have not seen details about the situation in Europe, where health awareness is considerably higher. I guess I also have to get back on a strictly organic diet, though. The change between India (full pesticide and fertilizer exposure) to Switzerland (organic or low level of chemical use) seems sometimes too drastic and inconsequent. When buying non-organic veggies, I just avoid stuff from Spain, Greece, Turkey (and of course Northern Africa) and Eastern Europe because of their over-use of toxics.
Kulapavana - Wed, 04 May 2005 21:07:10 +0530
I would add to the list of problems with strawberries one important item: biological contamination.

Strawberries grown in some desert areas (dry environment prevents fungial diseases - the bane of strawberry growers) are often watered with sewage water. That is especially common in Mexico. Strawberries are hard to wash completely and some people dont even bother with washing them, resulting in fecal bacteria poisoning... crying.gif that can happen even with organic strawberries.
braja - Wed, 04 May 2005 21:07:25 +0530
Yeah, we've been mainly organic on the fruits and veges for a while now based on this. I read an article recently about the madness of the US government subsidizing massive soy and corn production instead of helping to make safer fruits and veges available for humans. They make a food pyramid recommending large servings of fruits and veges but then assist conglomerations--that don't need assistance--to produce feed for cattle, corn syrup, etc., to fatten and sicken the people.