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Dried Oregano comes under the Food Fraud Spotlight

July 23, 2015

oreganoA study published by consumer group Which? has found that 25% of samples of dried herbs purchased from major supermarkets, smaller shops and online retailers contained other ingredients.

The results of the research, which looked at 78 samples of dried oregano, have been shared with the Food Standards Agency. Olive and myrtle leaves were found to be the most common contaminants, with some samples consisting of up to 70% of the two, which look almost identical to oregano. The tests, which used mass spectrometry to identify compounds by atomic composition, were carried out as a result of intelligence received by researchers that oregano being supplied to the UK and Ireland may be contaminated.

Professor Chris Elliott, director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast, led the study and believes other herbs and spices may be affected. “Clearly we have identified a major problem and it may well reflect issues with other herbs and spices that enter the British Isles through complex supply chains,” he said. “Much better controls are needed to protect the consumer from purchasing heavily contaminated products.”

Which? has not named the affected brands identified in the survey, but has passed details to the FSA who will inform the food businesses concerned. Earlier this year an investigation was undertaken by the FSA’s Food Crime Unit after traces of nuts were found in samples of cumin and paprika.