- Spices USA has recalled a total of 38,600 lbs. of Tasty Sawa ground turmeric. The spice, distributed as 772 50-lb. bags, was found to contain elevated levels of lead, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
- The spice in question, which was sold to distributors and repackers, went to Florida, New York, the Dominican Republic, France, Colombia, Jamaica and Barbados.
- FDA has determined the contaminant's source is the originating plant in India, and has tasked the individual buyers with ensuring the spice is not used.
Turmeric is often hailed as a miracle spice. Recent research has found that daily consumption of the bright yellow powder can improve a gene linked to depression, asthma, eczema and cancer. Given the number of Google searches for turmeric as a functional food, the search engine has called it a "rising star" in its trends report.
However, the spice is often linked to lead contamination. In August, six brands of turmeric were recalled by New Jersey-based Gel Spice Inc. for excessive levels of lead. Studies have shown that children who eat food with Indian spices are more likely to have elevated lead levels in their blood.
Turmeric powder comes from grinding a root, and has not been found to naturally contain lead. A Harvard researcher examined soil to see if it might be the source of the contamination. Her report was inconclusive, but health experts say the lead may get into the spice through processing, and it has been rumored that lead might be added as a matter of course to give the powder more weight.
The frequency of recalls for the spice are concerning, especially given its popularity. It may be in manufacturers' best interest to start growing and grinding turmeric in the United States, where food safety protocols are well known. With the advent of the Food Safety Modernization Act's controls on importers, manufacturers abroad may have to improve their practices in order for their products to come into the United States.