What's in your spices?

What's in your spices?

Have you ever gone to the grocery store in search of basil, oregano, cumin, or any other spice and wondered:

“Why would somebody pay more money for organic spices? I only use 1 tsp at a time. Does it really matter?”

When we look at other aspects of our diet, like butter, eggs, or meat, there’s a decent understanding that quality matters.

Spices are no different. This concept is not new, but it might be something you’ve never thought of.

When it comes to spices, it’s important to understand that the United States is the world’s largest importer of spices.

Because of the need to import spices from other countries around the world, the U.S. Government requires that all spices be sterilized before reaching the shelves of the grocery store for people to buy.

There are 3 ways to sterilize spices:

There are 3 ways to sterilize spices:

Fumigation:

Fumigation is the cheapest and most common way to sterilize spices. Companies achieve this by pumping ethylene oxide gas into containers of spices and allow it to permeate through the container until sterilization occurs. As a result of this process, residue from the ethylene oxide remains on the spices and aeration needs to occur in order to allow the gas to dissipate.

The USDA allows several chemicals to be used in the fumigation process. Yet, the World health organization has classified these same chemicals as hazardous to human health.

The final thing to consider is that products treated with this method of sterilization are not required to be labeled specifically stating they were treated in this way.

Irradiation

This process uses gamma radiation to penetrate high density packing materials to sterilize spices. The plus side to this method is there’s no residue left over like there is in fumigation. The downside of irradiation is that it reduces the flavor and nutrition value of the spices. Irradiated products must state on the label that irradiation occurred using the above logo.

An exception to the labeling requirement for irradiated spices exists when the spice is “roasted, heat-treated, or blended” with other irradiated or non-irradiated spices, and/or other ingredients.

Steaming

The only sterilization process approved for “certified organic” spices and other foods is steaming. Steaming utilizes dry steam (very hot water) to destroy bacteria without depleting the flavor and nutrient value of the spice.

The big take away here is: No chemicals, no radiation.

Other things to consider when it comes to spices:

The FDA does not require spice manufactures to label additional ingredients like flour, sugar, rice, or salt. They also don’t require labeling of artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives and they don’t require spices to be free of other contaminants.

"Filth"

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The FDA considers contamination from “filth” to be a potential hazard to humans consuming spices. FDA considers ‘‘filth’’ to mean ‘‘extraneous materials’’ as defined in the FDA’s Defect Levels Handbook: “Any foreign matter in a product associated with objectionable conditions or practices in production, storage, or distribution.” This includes “objectionable matter contributed by insects, rodents, and birds; decomposed material; and miscellaneous matter such as sand, soil, glass, rust, or other foreign substances” (FDA 1998a; Defect Levels Handbook).

Filth is an acceptable range of contamination in spices which come from a variety of sources. The American Spice Trade Association monitors and sets policy to control the level of filth in spices which enter the united states. They issued a policy statement in 2017 which provides their limits on acceptable levels of “filth.”

Why buy organic when it comes to spices?

First, the only sterilization process approved for “certified organic” spices and other foods is steaming.

Second, “certified organic” spices are regulated carefully enough to say there isn’t anything in the spice that shouldn’t be. If you buy a jar of cumin, you get a jar of cumin.

Third, small fair-trade farms make up the majority of organic spice suppliers. Fair-trade practices help farmers continue to produce high quality products by compensating them for their laborious work.

One last consideration is that spices tend to be de-inflammatory in the diet. Spices have been shown to be anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory while providing great nutritional support to the body. This carries over into the lifestyle of health and wellness and disease prevention.

Helping our community have access to affordable spices and more...

An added value to our members here at Connected Chiropractic is access to our wholesale buying club through Frontier Co-op. Whether you’re looking for spices online, at the grocery store, or in a health food store, chances are, if you’re buying organic, you’re buying frontier co-op products. Our members receive a massive discount on all of their products included in the co-op market as well as their bulk herbs and teas portion of their online store. We are happy to provide this benefit to help our members build healthy lifestyles.

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