Why Pepper Is Dirty? New FDA Findings

A Spice Buyer On Why Pepper Is Dirty, And How It Gets Clean

SpoonFed: Via NPR


This week’s news that the Food and Drug Administration found that 12 percent of spices imported to the U.S. are contaminated was a little disheartening. As the FDA reported, all kinds of nasty stuff hitch a ride with spices into the country — from insects to animal excrement to pathogens. The agency looked closely at pepper and sesame seeds, but says this is an issue with lots of other spices, too.

We called up Al Goetze, who has been a spice buyer for McCormick & Company for 30 years, to find out how spices get so filthy. And of course we wanted to know what the world’s largest spice buyer is doing about the problem. [...] read more

Excerpt from  NPR’s interview with  Al Goetze, spice buyer for McCormick & Company: 

Q. Tell us about that growing and handling process.

A. People think we buyers negotiate with farmers; the reality is you can’t, because there are so many small farmers.

There is usually someone [in the village] they are dedicated to go to, or who has the best price. They look at the peppers to see if they’re clean. Then, it’s stored there at the collector, and once there’s enough it goes to a processor or exporter. They do rudimentary cleaning to get to FDA detection action levels. At this level they’re not dealing with anything you can’t see — stones, other plant leaves. It’s mostly moved around in small poly woven bags.

Q. What happens once that pepper gets to McCormick?

A. We may clean it first, and then it goes into a steam sterilization process. It’s pasteurization. We do that with all of our spices. You can test a lot; you can take 10 different samples, 50 different samples, but there can still be hot spots in the lot where salmonella can be. [...] read more