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Survey of the microbiological safety of pre-packaged dried herbs and spices

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

This survey looked at the safety of dried herbs and spices present on the Irish market.

Between the 1 August and 30 November 2017, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland in collaboration with the Environmental Health Service and the Official Food Microbiology Laboratory Group (OFMLG) of the Health Service Executive, carried out a national survey to investigate the microbiological safety of dried herbs and spices. In total, 855 samples were collected by environmental health officers.

Samples were tested for Listeria (L. monocytogenes and Listeria species), Salmonella, presumptive Bacillus cereus, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), and the indicators; Escherichia coli and Enterobacteriaceae. In addition, environmental health officers (EHOs) were asked to ascertain if the dried herbs and spices had been irradiated.

This survey showed that, whilst the majority of dried herbs and spices are microbiologically safe, a small percentage may be contaminated with pathogens. This has important implications for food safety if herbs and spices are used raw on ready-to-eat foods. In addition, this survey showed that dried herbs and spices are typically not decontaminated using irradiation.