Agriculture Industry

Crop Care Federation of India (CCFI) Urges Factual Report on Ethylene Oxide to Safeguard Indian Spice Industry

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24 April 2024, New Delhi: Crop Care Federation of India (CCFI), the apex body for the Indian crop protection industry, has expressed concerns over recent media reports alleging the presence of “pesticide residues” in certain brands of spices exported from India to Singapore and Hong Kong. 

CCFI has clarified that the alleged pesticide in question, Ethylene oxide, is not registered as a pesticide in India under the provisions of the Insecticide Act 1968 and its rules. Ethylene oxide is primarily used as an industrial chemical and plays a vital role in the production of various chemicals, natural gas purification, and the creation of derivatives used in drilling oil and gas wells, according to the American Chemistry Council (ACC). It is also employed for fumigation, sterilization of medical equipment, and foodstuffs. The World Health Organization (WHO) highlights its use in sterilizing medical devices, preventing diseases and infections.

Nirmala Pathrawal, Executive Director at CCFI points out that Ethylene oxide is not a banned product in Singapore, and its use in the sterilization of spices is permitted under Singapore’s Food Regulation with a Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) of 50 ppm. Data from the Centre for Food Safety in Hong Kong indicates that residues of Ethylene oxide above permissible levels were found in four samples of spices, including one from the USA, one from Indonesia, one from India, and another from Hong Kong itself.

The industry body raises concerns about selective media coverage, focusing solely on the sample exported from India, and calls for a comprehensive examination of the issue. CCFI emphasizes that Ethylene oxide is an industrial chemical of economic importance and is not registered or authorized for use as a pesticide in India.

Regarding the cancer-causing potential of Ethylene oxide, CCFI highlights that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a part of WHO, categorizes it as hazardous as alcohol. The industry body questions the need for a ban on Ethylene oxide based on this criterion, suggesting that if Ethylene oxide were to be banned, then all types of alcohols should be banned as well.

Harish Mehta, Senior Advisor at CCFI said, “India is renowned as the “land of spices” and holds the distinction of being the largest producer, consumer, and exporter of various spices. CCFI emphasizes that the level of Ethylene oxide in parts per million (ppm) cannot be used as a pretext to undermine India’s spice trade, which amounted to $3.7 billion in exports for the year 2023.”

The industry body has urges Indian government authorities to publish a factual report on the matter to address concerns and safeguard the reputation of the Indian spice industry. The federation emphasizes the importance of countering incorrect, biased, and motivated negative campaigns that could harm the industry.

As the issue unfolds, it remains crucial to obtain accurate information and conduct a thorough investigation to ensure the integrity of India’s spice exports and maintain consumer confidence in the quality and safety of Indian spices.

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