Consumers and Economy
Relevance for consumers and economy
Despite the low water activity, which inhibits biological growth, of the final spice and herb products, spices and herbs are natural products that can be contaminated with several microorganisms, among them pathogenic species. However, also chemical contaminations may occur, mainly due to natural or unintentional inclusion, but also because of economical benefits. Microbial and chemical contaminations can take place at numerous vulnerable points within the production, processing and/or supply chain and can pose a tremendous risk for farmers, producers and consumers, leading to e.g. severe foodborne infections and intoxications.
Spices and herbs are contained in almost every processed food, including ready-to-eat products, thus consumers can be directly exposed to contaminated spices and herbs. The identification of condiments as a cause of a natural, accidental or intentional outbreak would be difficult, as consumers and experts that are investigating the outbreak often focus on major food ingredients instead of minor components, as seen during the enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli crisis in Germany in 2011.
The EU market is one of the largest markets for spices and herbs in the world, these commodities are mostly imported in dried or crude form from producing regions outside of the EU. A large proportion of imported spices and herbs are used in the industrial sector, especially in the processing of meat and production of ready-to-eat products in general; but also the retail sector for private consumers and the catering sector have large turnovers in spices and herbs.