Global spice meet to look at food safety norms

Global spice meet to look at food safety norms

Kochi: The government trade promotion body, Spices Board is expected to put the issues of food contamination and global food safety norms on top of the agenda at the biennial World Spice Congress scheduled to be held in Goa on 28-30 January.

According to V.J. Kurian, Spices Board chairman, nearly 200 international delegates and 300 delegates from India are expected to be a part of the meeting that has become a platform to showcase Indian spices. The gathering also provides opportunities for networking between various global spice players and the trade.

Contamination and adulteration of spices has been a global concern. Most nations have made significant changes in their legal and regulatory environment that could potentially have a serious impact on the $2 billion (Rs7,880 crore), 800,000 tonne global spice trade. India has a 44% share of the global business in volume and 38% in value.

After Indian chilli exports faced a series of rejections and near-boycott by Europe in 2003, following the detection of chemical dye Sudan Red (generally used by the textile industry) to add colour to the chillies and chilli powder, the board cancelled licences of five exporters and made pre-shipment inspection mandatory for all chilli consignments leaving the country. The measure led to quality improvement and has deterred such practice. In the first six months of fiscal 2008, chilli exports have touched the record 100,000-tonne level and fetched around Rs550 crore in revenue. Another major issue confronting the industry has been the lack of basic and common rules for food safety.

With each country determining its own standards, as in the case of maximum residue levels for different pesticides in food products, spice exports are becoming tough because of the lack of a single set of parameters, according to exporters. India has been demanding a common, harmonized set of food safety laws across the globe. The Goa meet is expected to see Larry Keener, chairperson of Global Harmonization Initiative (GHI), discuss and emphasize the urgent need to formulate initiatives to harmonize global food regulations. GHI, which was founded in 2004, promotes the elimination of regulatory differences on food safety across borders.

Also on the agenda is a presentation by Martin Mitchell of US-based Certified Labs, who will review the differences in analytical results and tests around the world and suggest means to develop a common, uniform system that is globally accepted.