What are adulterated spices and why does it matter?


Adulteration in food ingredients is not a new phenomenon, with Greek botanists in 200 BC raising concerns about pepper being impure. Even today, the American Spice Trade Association, has stated that “adulteration is one of the major concerns of the spice industry.” 

Adulteration of spices may be intentional, such as for financial gain, or unintentional, such as cross contamination of products. Some examples of intentional adulteration include bulking up the products, by adding starches or grains to increase the product weight at a lower cost. Not only does this make the product impure, but could pose risk for customers who have gluten allergies.

How often does adulteration of spices occur?

Researchers in the EU found that 17% of the samples they examined contained ingredients other than the single spice or herb that consumers believed they were purchasing2. End sellers who are not grower-processors do not have control over the supply chain, allowing numerous opportunities at the different product stages for the products to be contaminated.

Researchers could not identify what product stage, such as border control or local markets, were significant in the adulteration process.

How can you ensure that you are buying unadulterated spices? 

Finding a trustworthy supplier for your spices is essential to ensure your brand integrity. When considering suppliers, you may want to ask about the company’s raw material control, adherence to GMPs, and third-party certification.

A basic understanding of the spice that you are buying is helpful in identifying vulnerabilities during the purchasing process. If a product is being sold below market price, this could be an indicator that the product contains impurities.  You may also want to purchase from a supplier who prioritizes supply chain transparency – the more stops your product takes on the way to get to you, the more opportunities for adulteration may occur.

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