Ask Sharon: Are Spices Always Safe?

Ask Sharon: Are Spices Always Safe?

As part of my program “Ask Sharon”, I am answering the top question of the month submitted through my blogFacebookTwitter  or Instagram to answer here. You can even win a prize! Don’t forget to submit your burning nutrition question this month via my blog, or other social media. Here is my favorite question this month. 

Question: My neighbor said she threw out all her spices after reading that many are adulterated or contaminated. How do I know if my spices are safe? –Nina

Answer: While it is true that spices can harbor pathogens that can pose food safety problems, you should not give up on including herbs and spices in your diet. This is a healthful habit, since spices and herbs are rich in phytochemicals with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capacities. In fact, some spices and herbs have anti-microbial activity, and throughout history they were added to foods to help preserve them. Currently, the FDA is exploring new strategies to ensure that spices are safe within the food processing environment. The FDA does not recommend that consumers should change their use of spices. Rather, they are focusing the attention on new regulations for processing facilities that will require them to implement preventive controls for hazards in foods, such as pathogens like Salmonella that may be associated with certain spices. It’s also important to remember that in many cuisines, spices are added during cooking rather than at the table, and the heat treatment can reduce pathogen contamination. Many spices have “best by” dates, and you can refer to these to help guide you, however it’s important to note that this is a quality issue, rather than a safety issue. Spice makers suggest that spices can be good for years after the best by date, but they may lose their flavor vibrancy.

Check out a few of my favorite recipes including spices, such as Roasted Asparagus with Harissa Spiced Sorghum and Provencal Bean Salad.

Eat and Live Well,


Images: Sharon Palmer, RDN

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