Testing Spices for Heavy Metals

Your Herbs and Spices Might Contain Arsenic, Cadmium, and Lead

Consumer Reports tested 126 products from McCormick, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and other popular brands. Almost a third had heavy metal levels high enough to raise health concerns. There is no safe level of lead to have in the bloodstream and the effects of lead add up over time. Lead exposure has been linked to brain damage and developmental delays in children. All of the brands of oregano were determined to be of “some concern”. The Simply Organic brand appeared to be the cleanest of those tested.

In a separate article from Consumer Reports, the researchers found dangerous heavy metals in dark chocolate from Hershey’s, Theo, Trader Joe’s, and other popular brands.  Ghirardelli is popular brand that was listed as a safer choice. Read more at this link.

Excerpts from Consumer Reports:

Consumer Reports (CR) tested 126 products from McCormick, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and other popular brands. Almost a third had heavy metal levels high enough to raise health concerns.

For two herbs, thyme and oregano, all the products we tested had levels that CR experts say are concerning.

In 31 products, levels of lead were so high that they exceeded the maximum amount anyone should have in a day, according to CR’s experts.

Also troubling: There was no single predictor of which products contained higher levels of heavy metals—for example, brand name didn’t matter, and neither did “organic” or “packed in USA” claims.

The good news? Many products performed well in the tests. In seven of the 15 types of herbs and spices tested, all the brands had heavy metal levels below our thresholds for concern. And in most others, we found at least one brand that fit into our No Concern category. And none of the tested herbs and spices were contaminated with salmonella bacteria, which may cause foodborne illness.

See chart that lists the test results of popular spices:


The Threat of Heavy Metals

Frequent exposure to even small amounts of lead, arsenic, cadmium, and other heavy metals is dangerous, in part because it’s difficult for the human body to break them down or excrete them. And over time, exposure to those heavy metals can harm health. In children, it can affect brain development, increasing the risk for behavioral problems and lower IQ. In adults, it can contribute to central nervous system problems, reproductive problems, and hypertension, and can damage kidney and immune function.

“Since the risks are serious,” Rogers says, “it pays to limit your intake of heavy metals as much as possible.”

Heavy metals can show up in food if the water or soil where food is grown contains them naturally or is contaminated because of pesticides or industrial uses, says Tunde Akinleye, a CR chemist who oversaw the testing. Heavy metals may also get into food, including herbs and spices, during manufacturing—from processing equipment or packaging, for example.

Laura Shumow, executive director of the American Spice Trade Association, says it’s almost impossible to rid herbs and spices of all heavy metals because of “the unavoidable presence in the environments where they are grown.” She also says the amount of heavy metals absorbed from the soil, and the part of the plant where they can end up, differs from plant to plant. The trade group offers companies guidance on how to limit contaminants that they can implement with their suppliers.

Shumow says that according to a recent risk analysis by the ASTA, spices make up less than 0.1 percent of dietary lead exposure in children ages 1 to 6. And even for adults, she says, the ASTA believes the risk is low “in large part because spices are a very small component of the diet.”

But CR’s data underscore a broader problem. “People reach for the herbs and spices in their kitchens multiple times a day,” Akinleye says. And for certain spices, just one serving—¾ teaspoon or more—per day leaves little room for heavy metal exposure from other sources. For example, CR’s previous testing found that some brands of fruit juicebaby food, and rice contain troubling amounts of heavy metals.

And smaller amounts of certain products could be a concern if they are combined with others in a recipe. For example, a dish that has just ¼ teaspoon each of Great Value (Walmart) Chili Powder, Trader Joe’s Organic Cumin, and La Flor Oregano per serving would contain enough arsenic, cadmium, and lead to pose a concern.

Other research also suggests that herbs and spices can contribute to heavy metal exposure. For instance, a 2018 study in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found high lead levels in 22 percent of food samples—mostly spices and herbal remedies—taken from homes of children with lead poisoning in North Carolina.

And a 2010 study linked a case of lead poisoning in a 12-month-old Massachusetts boy in part to turmeric used by the family. Five similar cases were later discovered in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, and New York. And more than a dozen turmeric products have been recalled since 2011.

CR’s tests, however, demonstrate that it is possible for herb and spice companies to limit heavy metals in their products. “About two-thirds of the spices we tested did not have concerning levels of heavy metals,” Akinleye says. “So we know spices don’t have to have worrisome amounts of lead or arsenic or any other heavy metal.”

from:    https://needtoknow.news/2024/05/your-herbs-and-spices-might-contain-arsenic-cadmium-and-lead/

TJ’s Worker: A Week in the Life


Food Informants: A Week In The Life Of A Trader Joe’s Employee

First Posted: 8/11/11 08:55 AM ET Updated: 8/11/11 02:12 PM ET

Trader Joes Food Informant

Food Informants is a week-in-the-life series profiling fascinating people in the food world. We hope it will give you a first-hand look at the many different corners of the food industry. Know someone who would make a great Food InformantTell us why.

“Jane,” 24, has been working for Trader Joe’s since 2007, though in 2009 she left for over a year to go work for Whole Foods. She did not like it there and returned to TJ’s. At Trader Joe’s, every employee does a range of tasks, but Jane’s speciality is dairy. Below is her explanation of the pros and cons of the job:

I like working for Trader Joe’s because they pay me well and offer great benefits. They also respect me as an employee and make me feel like I’m useful and needed and not just another part-time employee that can be replaced (which has been the case at other retail jobs I’ve had). Trader Joe’s is really good at hiring great people and I’m lucky to have so many wonderful co-workers. I don’t like working at Trader Joe’s because the work can be strenuous on my back and wrists. Being on a register for several hours at a time is tiring and somewhat soul crushing due to ignorant people who feel the need to be condescending to me because I work at a grocery store. I also feel that the company is becoming more and more corporate as it grows and it is beginning to have an impact on the enjoyability of being a part-time “crew member.” I also work in a very busy store which causes the managers to stress out a lot and I don’t enjoy being surrounded by it.

Read on to learn about Jane’s week (she doesn’t work Tues/Wed/Thurs) and all the tasks she does at Trader Joe’s.

to read more, go to:   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/11/food-informants-trader-joes_n_917654.html#s325677&title=Nate_Appleman_Chip