Sol Andino Import and Export, a company based in Jackson Heights, Queens, issued a recall last week, as it was found that their ground cumin was contaminated with lead. Sol Andino distributes to retail stores in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. The lead in cumin was discovered through routine testing by New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Food Inspectors. It was then passed on to food laboratory staffers. Though the exact amount of lead present in the recalled cumin hasn't been reported, it was described as "excessive." While the FDA hasn't set specific guidelines for the amount of lead acceptable in spices, the EU says an acceptable threshold is 2-3 micrograms per gram.
Regardless, consuming lead at all is dangerous, especially for infants, small children, pregnant women, and those with underlying kidney disorders. The press release explains, "If a child or a pregnant woman is exposed to lead for a prolonged period of time, permanent damage to central nervous system, learning disorders, developmental defects, and other long-term health problems can occur." Fortunately, so far no illnesses connected to the contaminated cumin have been reported.
This isn't the first time lead has been discovered in spices. Just last year, six brands of turmeric were recalled across the United States for containing excessive amounts of lead.