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India to test MDH, Everest spices for cancer-causing pesticide, source says

BENGALURU (Reuters) -India's food safety regulator will conduct quality checks on products of popular Indian spice brands MDH and Everest Group after Hong Kong banned the sale of some products for allegedly containing a cancer-causing pesticide, a senior Indian official said on Monday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the inspections would test for the presence of ethylene oxide, a harmful pesticide unfit for human consumption and whose long-term exposure can cause cancer.

MDH and Everest are household names that have ruled Indian kitchens as a primary choice of spices in cuisine, at homes or in restaurants. The companies also export to various places, including the U.S., Europe, Middle East and UK.

The Hong Kong regulatory decision was announced on the website of the country's Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department on April 5, but caught public attention on Monday, when Indian media reported it for the first time.

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On April 18, the Singapore Food Agency asked for the recall of 'Everest Fish Curry Masala' due to the presence of the same pesticide.

MDH and Everest Group did not respond to requests for comment on the recalls. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India too did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The CFS collected samples of three of MDH's pre-packaged spice products - 'Madras Curry Powder', 'Sambhar Masala Powder' and 'Curry Powder' - and Everest Group's 'Fish Curry Masala' for testing under its routine food surveillance programme when it detected the presence of the pesticide, the CFS had said.

It instructed the concerned vendors in the city of Tsim Sha Tsui to stop selling those products and remove them from their shelves.

"According to the CFS's instructions, the distributors/importers concerned have initiated recalls on the affected products," a spokesperson for the CFS said.

In June 2023, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had recalled two of Everest's spice mixes after they tested positive for Salmonella.

(Reporting by Aditya Kalra and Kashish Tandon; Editing by Savio D'Souza)