Turmeric

Inspectors found salmonella on ginger and poppy seed from India, black pepper and red pepper from Japan and allspice from Turkey. (Kirk McKoy / October 30, 2013)

About 12% of spices imported into the U.S. each year is contaminated with insects, animal excrement, rodent hair and even rubber bands, according to a Food and Drug Administration draft report released Wednesday.

The study was conducted in response to recent cases of salmonella found in imported spices. It looked at ways to reduce the rates of human illness caused by contamination in the seasonings.

“Nearly all of the insects found in spice samples were stored product pests, indicating inadequate packing or storage conditions. The presence of rodent hair (without a root) in spices is generally indicative of contamination by rodent feces,” the report said.

The FDA called the problem “systemic” and identified 14 outbreaks from 1973 to 2010 that sickened 2,000 people and hospitalized 128 worldwide.

The relatively small number of outbreaks over that time may be because consumers use only small amounts of spices each time, the agency said.

Still, the FDA found 7% of imported spices were contaminated with salmonella after sampling 2,800 shipments from 2007 to 2009, the report said.

The bacteria kills 400 people and sickens about 1.2 million each year in the U.S.

Inspectors found salmonella on ginger and poppy seed from India, black pepper and red pepper from Japan and allspice from Turkey.