According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), researchers in North Carolina found lead contamination in a number of spices, herbal remedies, and ceremonial powders. Lead investigations in 983 homes were conducted by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services between 2011 and 2018. Nearly 400 samples were tested for lead contamination. The spices that had the highest levels of lead were found to be chili powder/red pepper, cumin, coriander, anise, turmeric, and vanilla. There are many ways spices may be contaminated before ending up in your home. Nearly 95% of all spices consumed in the United States are imported.
“Spices are often grown in countries polluted by leaded gasoline, smelters, battery manufacturing plants, and mines. Lead is deposited in soil and water from airborne pollutants and fertilizer application. Lead dust from grinding machinery can also contaminate spices. Spices might also be adulterated deliberately with lead to enhance color or increase weight.” -CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report,
The report recommends further testing at the port of entry where these substances are imported into the U.S. and setting a national maximum allowable limit for lead in spices and herbal remedies.