Reports Find Potentially Harmful Metals in Bottled Spices

Photo by Heather McKean from Unsplash

Most of our spice cabinets are full of bottled spices because they’re simple to use and to buy. But can these spices harm our health?

Recently, Consumer Reports ran tests on bottled spices from popular stores and brands such as Trader Joe’s, McCormick, Walmart, and Whole Foods. Spices such as rosemary, basil, thyme, pepper, and more were found to contain high levels of arsenic, lead, and cadmium which could pose health concerns for children and adults when consumed on a regular basis. Erica Burger told Consumer Reports that she found a 21-spice mixture that she loves so much that she uses it on virtually everything she makes.

Spices are used in many different recipes and our favorite meals would not be the same without them. For example, pumpkin pie would not be the same without the fragrant flavor from the cinnamon, and the spice from the nutmeg and ginger.

Even frequent exposure over time to small amounts of lead, arsenic, and cadmium can pose health risks because the human body can face difficulty getting rid of them once they have entered the body. In children, brain development can be affected which increases the risk for behavioral problems and a lower IQ. In adults, it can cause central nervous system problems, reproductive problems, hypertension, kidney damage, and a damaged immune system.

No brand or store had better rates of heavy metals over another, even if the label said “organic” or “packed in the USA.” Consumer Reports also included that for thyme and rosemary, 31 out of the 126 products tested contained levels of lead higher than the maximum amount that anyone should consume in a day. But other than that, seven out of the 15 types of herbs and spices tested had heavy metal levels that didn’t raise any concern.

Dr. James E. Rogers says that these metals are most likely already in other parts of your diet such as drinking water, juices, fruits, or even cereals. He also says that a single serving from any herb or spice tested by Consumer Reports is most likely not going to cause harm, but you can still limit your risk by choosing your herbs and spices carefully.
If you are worried about your spices containing heavy metals, that doesn’t mean you have to clear out your spice cabinet. It just means that in the future, you should choose products with lower levels of heavy metals. Focus on these spices, and don’t assume one brand is safer than another just because it is organic. You can access the results from the tests conducted by Consumer Reports to see what is safe and what you are comfortable with.