Health officials have issued a massive recall of Pran turmeric powder after the spice tested positive for lead in Dallas. The spice, which is imported from Bangladesh, was found to contain high levels of lead, exceeding 48 ppm, according to a statement posted to the Food and Drug Administration’s website.
More than 90 percent of all U.S. spices are imported. The recent recall of turmeric in Texas has highlighted the FDA’s need to update its rules on imported spiced and herbs, Komo News noted.
"Many spices are treated to reduce contamination, but spices in general are not risk-free," FDA spokeswoman Shelly Burgess told ABC News. "Consumers concerned about the safety of spices used in the home should add spice during cooking rather than adding them at the table."
Fahman Enterprises Inc., located in Dallas, voluntarily recalled their Pran turmeric powder last week after authorities found it to be contaminated with lead. The turmeric powder was distributed in Dallas to retail stores between July 2013 and September 2013.
Lead occurs in the environment both naturally and through human activities. The New York State Department of Health notes that lead can be found in almost anything, including toys, dust, food and even air. Even baby food contains permissible levels of lead (less than 15 parts per billion). In small doses, it’s pretty much harmless.
But lead is still a toxin, and over time, it can accumulate in the body, where it can cause harm. When lead is ingested, 90 percent of it is stored in the bones. High levels of lead can cause serious health problems including neurological problems, seizures and hearing loss.
According to ABC News, imported spices are increasingly becoming a problem for U.S. distributors because of contamination. In September alone, the FDA found 19 spice shipments to be contaminated, one-third of which were tainted with salmonella.
“You don’t know where any of the ingredients came from,” Sandra B. Eskin, director of food safety at the Pew Charitable Trusts, told ABC News. “It’s not a requirement that ingredients be identified by country of origin.”
Pran denies that its supply of turmeric in Bangladesh contained dangerous amounts of lead after tests conducted in the country did not come up positive for “excessive levels” of the contaminant. The company plans to appeal to the FDA for re-examination of its product, according to The Daily Star.