SPICES By Jeffrey L. Kornacki, Ph.D.
The Coming Storm in the Spice Industry
The spice industry is poised on the edge of major regulatory interventions, and the result will be profound changes in its food safety systems, particularly as they relate to contami-
nation with pathogenic microorganisms, if the
industry is to survive. This opinion is drawn
from the use of new surveillance tools coming
onboard at the U.S. Food and Drug Adminis-
tration (FDA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC), increasing
FDA involvement with spices, principally
with potential Salmonella contamination and
growing regulatory, academic and industry
awareness of Salmonella risk with low water
activity foods, spices and “stealth” foods.
The food industry has gone through a great
change with the introduction of the Food-Net/PulseNet surveillance in the late 1990s,
resulting in smaller but more numerous and
widely dispersed outbreaks (Figure 1).
This upward outbreak trend is in spite of reductions or leveling off of actual foodborne bacterial illnesses (Figure 2).
In Figure 3, note that Salmonella illnesses have remained
constant in spite of the increased surveillance. Furthermore,
the estimated incidence of Salmonella infection is incredibly
high compared with most other bacterial infections.
Salmonella infections are estimated at well over 1 million
cases per year, with most believed to be foodborne.1, 2 The
high estimate and comparatively low discovery of outbreaks
have caused some to speculate that these illnesses come from
so-called stealth foods, for example, those that people are un-
Increases in spice-
outbreaks will mean
Figure 1. Multi-state Foodborne Disease Outbreaks, 1992–2011
0 1992–1996 1997–2001 2002–2006 2007–2011