Public and private standards for dried culinary herbs and spices—Part II: Production and product standards for ensuring microbiological safety

Sara Schaarschmidt*, Franziska Spradau, Helmut Mank, Jennifer L. Banach, Ine van der Fels, Petra Hiller, Bernd Appel, Juliane Bräunig, Heidi Wichmann-Schauer, Anneluise Mader

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Dried culinary herbs and spices (DCHS) are minor food components with widespread use. Despite their low water activity, some microorganisms—including pathogenic and toxigenic ones—can survive in DCHS. The addition of microbial contaminated DCHS to ready-to-eat food in combination with improper food storage can pose a serious health risk for the consumer. In the past, several food-borne disease outbreaks were related to microbial contaminated spices. The aim of this study was to provide an overview on (i) spice/herb production standards important for promoting food safety by preventing microbial contaminations, (ii) public and private standards providing microbiological criteria to assess the microbiological safety of DCHS, and (iii) product testing performed by DCHS producing/processing businesses to comply with these standards. For that, a literature search and a survey among herb/spice businesses were conducted. Several good practices and production guidelines specific for the primary production and/or processing of culinary herbs and spices were found. Microbiological criteria specific for DCHS are usually rare, but some national standards (mostly of non-EU member states) as well as recommendations by private bodies could be identified. By EU law, no mandatory microbiological criteria specific for DCHS are laid down. The survey indicated a frequent application of business-to-business agreements. The microbiological quality of DCHS was tested by the survey participants mainly in a routine manner by checking every lot or based on buyer–seller agreements. Risk-based testing was less common, which differed to chemical safety testing. Upon import into the EU, testing appeared to be performed predominantly in a routine manner for the pathogenic bacteria Salmonella spp., sulphite-reducing clostridia (including Clostridium perfringens), Bacillus cereus, and Staphylococcus aureus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)360-370
JournalFood Control
Volume70
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Keywords

  • Bacillus cereus
  • Clostridium perfringens
  • Food safety testing
  • Good practices
  • Microbiological criteria
  • Salmonella spp.

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