As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to analyze data gathered from a 2-year nationwide study, the end goal is clear: to make spices imported from outside the United States safer.

The data was collected on the presence of salmonella in retail packages of spices found in supermarkets, ethnic markets, discount stores and online. Now, the FDA is sharing questions and answers about spice safety based on their findings.

“In an effort to reduce the persistence of foodborne illness, the FDA has been addressing spice safety by enacting new preventive rules and controls in the food supply chain under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The agency’s efforts apply to both domestic and imported spices. The study involved the sampling of retail spices, in addition to sampling conducted at the import level,” according to a report in Food Safety Magazine.

The majority of the U.S. spice supply is imported, which is why this study is so important. The FDA sampled 7,249 spices, including basil, black pepper, oregano, paprika, red pepper (capsicum), coriander, cumin, curry powder, garlic, sesame seed and white pepper.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) will help the FDA improve spice safety because the rules focus on preventing hazards and tightening controls in the supply chain, on products made in this country and in imported products. The agency has also increased inspections of spice manufacturing facilities.

FDA is working with partners to develop a training center focused on supply chain management for spices and botanical ingredients. And the agency has staff permanently stationed in China, India, Europe, Latin America, Middle East and North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Indian is the leading country of origin for U.S. spice importation. The FDA has offices there in New Delhi and Mumbai.

At this time, the FDA is not recommending that consumers change their consumption or use of spices. In many cultures, spices are added during cooking rather than at the table. This heat treatment can reduce pathogen contamination, depending on the length of cooking time and the final temperature of the food.