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FDA Cracks Down on Imported Spices After Turmeric Tests Positive for Lead

ABC News' Gitika Kaul reports:

The Food and Drug Administration will conduct a meeting today, considering ways to update rules on imported spices and herbs as a recall is currently underway to pull Pran's turmeric powder from supermarket shelves after it tested positive for lead.

FDA inspectors spent Tuesday pouring through hundreds of pounds of Pran's turmeric at a warehouse in Dallas, Texas, destroying the spoiled spice. Fahman Enterprises Inc., who distributes Pran's turmeric powder, voluntarily recalled the product last week, according to a company release posted on the FDA website. The turmeric, which is imported from Bangladesh, contained high levels of lead (48 ppm) based on sampling done by the agency.

According to the USDA, more than 90% of the U.S. spice supply is imported.

"They [FDA] came here, they took the sampling, they sent it to the lab, the lab results came back and they asked me to hold turmeric powder," Najeeb Khan, president of Fahman Enterprises Inc., told ABC News.

The recalled product was distributed in Dallas to retail stores between the dates of July 2013 and September 2013. The FDA says no complaints have been reported.

Contaminated spices have become an increasing problem because many of the spices found on American supermarket shelves are not manufactured in the U.S.

Last month, 19 shipments of imported spices were rejected because of contamination, with more than a third testing positive for salmonella, according to the FDA.

Three years ago, salmonella-infected pepper from Vietnam put on domestic salami sickened nearly 300 Americans.

"Many spices are treated to reduce contamination but spices in general are not risk-free," FDA spokeswoman Shelly Burgess said in a statement issued to ABC News. "Consumers concerned about the safety of spices used in the home should add spices during cooking rather than adding them at the table. It's also important to follow basic food handling practices-cook, chill, clean and separate."

Many of these imported spices also make it into other pre-packaged foods. Activists want to see that country of origin labeled as well as tougher rules on all those spices imported and consumed by Americans every day.

"You don't know where any of the ingredients came from. It's not a requirement that ingredients be identified by country of origin," Sandra B. Eskin, director of food safety at the Pew Charitable Trusts, told ABC News.

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