5 On Your Side

You likely have some of these contaminated spices

Posted November 15, 2021 4:30 p.m. EST
Updated November 15, 2021 7:28 p.m. EST

— People's spice cabinets may contain dangerous levels of arsenic, even lead, according to a Consumer Reports Investigation.

“We tested 126 products and found that roughly a third had combined levels of arsenic, lead and cadmium that were high enough to raise health concerns,” said Lisa Gill, health and medicine investigative reporter for Consumer Reports.

The investigation found 40 spices, of varying types, that have the most worrisome levels of heavy metals. Brand name didn’t matter, nor did “organic” or “packed in USA” claims.

In 31 of the spices, lead levels were so high that Consumer reports said they exceeded the maximum amount anyone should have in a day.

Oregano and thyme were the most troublesome.

All of the products tested had levels Consumer Reports experts deemed concerning.

The American Spice Trade Association said it’s almost impossible to rid spices of all heavy metals because of “the unavoidable presence in the environments where they are grown."

But Consumer Reports said there are options.

“The good news is we did find plenty of spices below our threshold of concern, such as black pepper, curry powder, coriander, saffron, white pepper and garlic powder," Gill said.

People can also grow and dry their own herbs, she said.

Consumer Reports also recommends giving spices a good sniff now and then to check if they’re still fresh. If you can’t smell the spice, regardless of how long you’ve had it, it’s probably time to throw it out.

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