10 Things to Know About Spices

Harmful Chemicals in Indian Spices!?!?

Levels of certain chemicals exceeding the MRL (Maximum Residue Limit) set by the regulatory bodies abroad. Products of many popular spice brands pulled up. The recent brouhaha about Indian spices is sad at many levels.

Here are 10 aspects you need to know about your Spices.

1. Our Spices enhance not just the flavour of our food, but the very quality of our lives! Imagine doing without them for even one day. There are so many diets out there, but none without spices!

2. Each and every meal of ours carries some spice or the other. Even the raw salads could have pepper or cumin powder.

3. Our traditional medicinal system, unlike the western medicine which relies on concoctions of artificial chemicals, like Siddha or Ayurveda, or Naturopathy, recommend use of pepper, turmeric, cloves, cumins and such. Home remedies for small ailments or injuries are based on these very spices. My favourite remedies for the past 2-3 decades: Turmeric in cold-pressed coconut oil for any rash, bruise, insect bite, or burn; cloves for toothache, pepper for persistent cough, cumin kashayam for gas/flatulence. Imagine if these were contaminated or adulterated!

4. It is funny or at least amusing how the regulators abroad have pulled up Indian spices on account of contamination. Those were the times when Europeans fought their way to Indian shores in search of Black Gold (our humble pepper), leading to a painful saga of imperialism. And now, this! Geopolitics? Trade war?

5. Indian Spices - both whole and powdered - are the costliest grocery items any Indian family consumes. By weight. More than oil. So why are we surprised that this is the item most prone to adulteration, commercial considerations, profiteering? There is a lot of money to be made attracting a lot of unscrupulous elements as well.

6. It is sad that through spices, chemicals have entered not just our homes, but all our meals, and thereby our bodies! No, eating out or Swiggy/Zomato is not a solution. It could be worse!

7. The use of chemicals in growing, processing and storing/packaging of spices is so rampant that even the regulator is ok with it, and allows a certain level called the MRL for various chemicals in different crops/spices. Of course MRL is specified for most chemicals and food products, but I bet none of us know about them, nor are they mentioned on the food labels. It is almost as if these are poisonous chemicals, but a little bit of it is ok!! At least according to FSSAI. Dictated by the spice export industry?

8. But the spices are tested for food safety, right? Best case scenario, they are. But does that take care of the risks entirely?

Check out the book to bust the myths of safety testing of food for chemicals.
Most of the testing is done on adults, so the impact on children is ignored. Testing is rarely done for long-term impact. And testing is almost never done on combinations of chemicals - only the active ingredient is tested for, but we don’t just one chemical is one food, but a concoction of chemicals. So sure, food is tested, but really?!? Do we want to bet our lives and health on this?

9. The solution is far simpler, if you ask us at Bio Basics.

Go organic. Know your food and its provenance. If you don’t have either the time or the inclination, then ask questions to your retailer (that is us) about how/where he/she sources it from.

10. The least we can do is to avoid faceless superstores and faceless brands with long supply chains and cheap prices.

Go ahead and spice up your life. But use organic spices from genuine known sources. This is not a commercial for Bio Basics!

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