Organic Spices – A Safer Alternative

Organic Spices A Safer Alternative

organic spicesOrganic spices are a safe  alternative to conventional spices.  Look!  I’ll bet you think that spices are safe, free of harmful chemicals, impurities and ingredients.  Well think again!  In fact conventional spices may be among the most dangerous stuff in your kitchen cabinet.  Whenever possible choose to cook with organic spices.  Spices are at the top of the list of foods we should avoid because of their high concentration of pesticides.

As if pesticides weren’t enough of a reason to buy organic spices, there are others reasons to buy organic spices.  A short list of possible contaminants in spices includes:

  • Pesticides
  • Irradiation
  • Fillers
  • Preservatives
  • GMO’s

Let’s look at each one individually shall we?

Fumigation and Sterilization

According to Thomas Fricke, co-founder and president of ForesTrade, an organic spice company in Brattleboro, Vermont, “Virtually all conventional spices sold in the United States are fumigated [sterilized] with hazardous chemicals that are banned in Europe.”

When spices come in from the fields to be dried, they can be contaminated with all sorts of junk, like insects, mold, yeasts and pathogens like salmonella.

It’s for this reason that conventional spice producers choose to sterilize their spices with toxic chemicals.

One particularly scary sterilizing agent used is called ethylene oxide, a gas that can leave behind a residue that’s carcinogenic


And then there’s irradiation, which was approved for use on spices in 1983. This is another method for killing bacteria and food borne illnesses like salmonella.

Foods are irradiated by being passed through a radiation chamber on a conveyor belt. The spices actually pass through a radiation beam. Spices are currently regulated by the FDA for the highest allowable radiation amounts of any food

You might ask, “Whats wrong with a irradiation. Doesn’t it just go away.  Well not necessarily.  In general irradiation damages the quality of food

Irradiated fats tend to become rancid.  Even at low doses, some irradiated foods lose 20% of vitamins such as C, E, K, and B complex.  Because irradiation breaks down the food’s cell walls, accelerated vitamin losses occur during storage–up to 80%.  Ironically, irradiation both creates harmful free radicals and destroys the antioxidant vitamins necessary to fight them!  When electron beams are used, trace amounts of radioactivity may be created.  And finally Irradiation produces toxic byproducts in the food.

Fillers, preservatives and GMO’s

Conventional spices can also include fillers so they end up being far more than just the initial dried spice that you thought you were getting.  It’s cheaper to use less spice and more cheap fillers like GMO corn.

Artificial colors

Artificial flavors


Anti-caking agents that keep them from clumping together.

Soy and corn derivatives that are likely GMO because both soy and corn are on the big eight list of GMO’s.  Sawdust is also used as a filler as are other chemicals.

Testing Your Spices

There are methods you can use to test your spices for fillers.  In several cases, simply sprinkling your spice onto water and observing what happens can provide a clue.  For example in the case of cumin, the spice sinks and any filler, such as saw dust, remains floating.  See the short video for an example.

Buy Organic

Buy organic spices whenever possible to avoid irradiation (which is banned in USDA certified organic foods) as well as pesticides, and chemical sterilizing agents.  Because harmful chemicals and irradiation are not allowed to be used for certified organic products, organic spice companies use steam to sterilize their spices rather than toxic chemicals or radiation.

Buy spices as you need them as they lose their zing after a certain period of time so buying them in smaller amounts enables you to use them up before they go bland.

Buy spices in smaller amounts. Buy small amounts of the spices you use on a regular basis in bulk (like oregano, rosemary, and basil).

Toxins and our environment

Since 1985, over 20,000 new chemicals have been introduced and are soaking our environment, our children and you.  And yes! the FDA and EPA allow it.  These industries are, to a great extent, unregulated.   To learn more about toxins in your home and body and your children, check out The Toxic Truth. The magnitude of the problem will astound you.

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