Do your herbs and spices contain arsenic, cadmium or lead?
We test 20 products to find out.
By Belinda Castles
Research Writer | Kaituhi Rangahau
Ground lead in your curry, a sprinkle of arsenic on your homemade pizza?
For many of us, herbs and spices play a role in the weekly menu. But as well as spicing up our dishes, overseas testing found some herbs and spices contain dangerous levels of heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium and lead).
In 2021, Consumer Reports in the US tested 15 types of dried herbs and spices (126 products in total). It found about one-third (40) had high enough levels of arsenic, lead and cadmium combined to pose a health concern for children when regularly eaten in typical serving sizes. Most of these products raised concern for adults too. The results were particularly concerning for oregano and thyme. Four out of nine ground turmeric products also raised red flags.
Most dried herbs and spices sold in New Zealand are imported. In 2021, we imported approximately 1.3 million kilograms of nine herbs and spices – an increase of more than 25% since 2019. Consumer NZ tested six dried oregano, eight dried thyme and six ground turmeric products (including some sold in bulk bins), to see if heavy metal contamination is an issue in products sold in New Zealand.
What we found
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