ATLANTA, Ga. (WSB-TV) — Rat hair, insects and dangerous bacteria are just some of what federal inspectors say show up when they test the spices we eat.
After years of research, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found 12 percent of all spices imported to the United States are contaminated with insect parts, rodent hair and other nasty stuff.
"What do you think?" Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant asked shopper Jodie Sturgeon after learning about the report findings.
"I think it's disgusting," Sturgeon said.
"Insect parts and other gross things in there are really part and parcel of the way these spices are stored. It's certainly a sign that people along the chain who are storing and shipping these spices need to do a better job," said Caroline Smith DeWaal with the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Federal inspectors found the highest contamination rates among spice imports from Mexico and India, common ones like ginger, poppy seed, black pepper and allspice.
Maybe most concerning for Emory University researcher Amy Kirby, nearly 7 percent of the spices the feds tested contained salmonella.
"Should people be worried about this?" Diamant asked Kirby.
"I think you should be careful. I don't know that it's a cause for a great alarm, but it's definitely something to think about when you're using spices that aren't going to be cooked," Kirby said.
Diamant learned the FDA is implementing a new law that will allow the feds to track spice shipments and impose stricter controls on importers.
"In meantime, consumers may want to consider where they're getting their spices. This may be were locally grown and buying from a farmer may be better choice than buying spices shipped all around world," DeWaal said.
Of the more than one million confirmed salmonella cases every year in the U.S. over the last 30 years less than 2,000 cases were connected to spices.