New York Monitors Heavy Metal Content in Spices

Mar. 30 2022

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYSAGM) Division of Food Safety and Inspection is responsible for the safety of food manufactured and sold in New York State.  As there are no federal heavy metal limits for spices, New York State established limits.  This provides them the ability monitor and recall spices containing lead, cadmium, and arsenic.   

NYS Background: 
In 2016, the Department instituted a State Class I recall action level of 25 ppm for lead in spices and a State Class II recall action level of 1 ppm for inorganic arsenic, cadmium, and lead.  Last year they announced an 18-month phase-in implementation period reducing the Class II limits by almost a factor of five. 
• Class I Recall:  Dangerous or defective products that predictably could cause serious health problems or death. 
• Class II Recall:  Products that might cause a temporary health problem or pose only a slight threat of a serious nature.  

  Class I 
Recall Limit
Class II
Recall Limits
New Class II
Recall Limits
Lead 25 ppm 1 ppm 0.21 ppm
Cadmium -- 1 ppm 0.26 ppm
Arsenic -- 1 ppm 0.21 ppm

As part of the State’s implementation strategy, NYSAGM stated they will monitor violations of the new Class II recall action level policy by sending warning letters to those parties responsible for the violation.  This approach will provide importers, distributors, co-packers, manufacturers, and retailers of spices the opportunity to implement additional controls to comply with the new Class II recall action levels in the future. 

California Proposition 65:
For a comparison, below are some of the lead, cadmium, and arsenic limits for specific spices within several California Proposition 65 settlements.

  Lead Arsenic Cadmium
Ground cinnamon 0.2 ppm 0.02 ppm --
Ground sumac 0.2 ppm 0.02 ppm --
Ground shrimp 0.075 ppm 0.02 ppm 0.12 ppm
Ground cumin 0.2 ppm -- --
Turmeric powder 0.05 ppm -- --
Curry powder 0.275 ppm -- --
Ground sage 0.375 ppm -- --
Ground ginger 0.72 ppm -- --

Links to NYS websites:

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