Allergen risk assessment model for dried herbs and spices


The Seasoning and Spice Association

The mission of The Seasoning and Spice Association is to be the leading voice of the UK Seasoning and Spice industry in the interests of members, food manufacturers and consumers alike.

The SSA's principal objective is to promote the interests of its members in all aspects of the importation, processing and distribution of seasonings, herbs, spices ad related products.

The Seasoning and Spice Association is a member of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF).

30 July 2019 - Seasoning and Spice Association position statement on Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids

The Seasoning and Spice Association (SSA) represents the UK's leading spice and seasoning processors and supports the production of safe and wholesome foods. All matters relating to the health and safety of consumers are a priority for SSA and its Members.


Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids (PAs) are a group of natural toxins found in a wide variety of plants. With few exceptions e.g. borage, plant species traded as herbs and spices are not thought to form PAs themselves. PAs in herbs and spices are most likely to be linked to the presence of weed species in the finished product and therefore have their origin in agricultural practices, however other sources remain a possibility.

Regulatory Framework

No current regulations exist in the UK or EU. However, a draft EU regulation has been published proposing maximum levels [1] for these compounds in a variety of foods, including herbs and spices.

Current SSA Position

The SSA is committed to the application of the ALARA principle (as low as reasonable achievable) for PAs. We and our members are working with the European Spice Association (ESA), partner laboratories and producers/growers to:

  • Understand the source and scope of PAs in herbs and spices
  • Develop best agricultural practices for PA mitigation, using as a model the Code of Practice developed by the Tea and Herbal Infusions Industry [2]
  • Implement best practice solutions for PA reduction across multiple crops and growing locations

We will continue to lobby the EU and UK authorities, alongside our ESA partners, for practical and achievable legislation which provides:

  • An appropriate transition period to allow mitigation measures to be assessed and implemented
  • Reasonable Maximum Limits, which are science-based and achievable
  • A standardised test method for PAs
  • A reference to a sampling plan which recognises the non-homogeneity of PAs within herbs and spices (similar to the model for aflatoxins [3])

At this time, members are advised to evaluate their supply chain and to ensure awareness of this topic amongst their suppliers.

References and further sources of information
1 Proposed maximum levels for pyrrolizidine alkaloids as discussed at Working Group Agricultural Contaminants for targeted consultation of stakeholder organisations (link).
2 Code of Practice to Prevent and Reduce Pyrrolizidine Alkaloid Contamination in Raw Materials for Tea and Herbal Infusions (link)
3 COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 401/2006 of 23 February 2006 laying down the methods of sampling and analysis for the official control of the levels of mycotoxins in foodstuffs (link)

15 June 2016 - Open Letter to the British Retail Consortium, Food and Drink Federation and Seasoning and Spice Association

I was aware that the Food Standards Agency (FSA) had organised a workshop for industry to discuss the issues of authenticity of herbs and spices on sale in the UK following reports of fraud perpetrated in North America in 2015. I was delighted that the FSA had taken this leadership role. I was also made aware that the industry had agreed to develop guidelines to help protect themselves and ultimately the consumer from fraud. I thought this a very positive outcome to the workshop.

The 'Guidance on Authenticity of Herbs and Spices' was published this week and I reviewed the document with great interest. My analysis is that a well-described, very coherent nine point plan has been produced that is both extremely robust and practical. While no plan is ever full proof the UK Herbs and Spices industry, if they stick to their own guidelines, will be a substantially better place than ever before in terms of deterring fraud in this very vulnerable sector of the food industry.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all of those involved in the development of this guideline for taking a major leadership role in further protecting the UK consumer and good name of the UK food industry. While each food sector is different I believe that a template has been produced that can be used by many different areas of the food industry to provide practical guidance to business to protect the UK from food fraud.

Professor Chris Elliott
Author of the Elliott Review on the Integrity and Assurance of Food Supply Networks Pro Vice Chancellor, Queen's University, Belfast.

23 July 2015 – Seasoning and Spice Association Position Statement on the survey by Which? magazine on the authenticity of oregano

“The Seasoning and Spice Association (SSA) members take matters of food authenticity very seriously.

To ensure the quality and integrity of products, SSA members have in place a series of fully implemented process controls to protect themselves and ultimately their customers from fraud. These controls are based on well-established good manufacturing practices (GMPs) and sound food safety management systems (FSMS). Furthermore SSA members are committed to purchase all their products from approved suppliers in order to ensure full traceability of their products at all stages of production, processing and distribution. Useful current methodologies to identify the presence of undeclared substances can include microscopy, organoleptic and analytical testing of volatile oil content.

The majority of oregano sold in the UK is authentic, as this survey indicates. That some samples have been found to contain large quantities of bulking substances instead of oregano is unacceptable and undermines the efforts of many suppliers to ensure the integrity of this supply chain.

We are working with the FSA and retailers to ensure that the most up to date knowledge and good manufacturing practices are shared more widely to ensure more companies can identify and manage the risk of food fraud more effectively.”

Version 1 – 23 July 2015

30 June 2015 - SSA's Position Statement on Undeclared Allergens in Cumin and Paprika Products following the FSA News Story on Rescinded Recall.

For further information see SSA's Q&A.

For further information about Product Alerts see Anaphylaxis Campaign website

Food and drink manufacturers rely on their supply chains to ensure consumer choice, affordability, consistent quality of products and continuity of supply. Any supply chain, no matter how simple or complex, can present risks that need to be adequately managed. As the global supply system comes under increasing pressure from population increase, growing demand for limited resources and changing diets, companies also need to be alert to the potential for food fraud and actively work with their customers and suppliers to identify and mitigate the risks of food fraud. FDF's Food Authenticity: Five steps to help protect your business from food fraud available here