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Are There Harmful Ingredients Lurking In Your Spice Cabinet?

Before I started investigating what’s in my food, I had no idea there were several harmful ingredients lurking in my spice cabinet!

Spices have incredible medicinal properties including curbing hunger (cayenne), boosting metabolism (paprika), and fighting inflammation (cinnamon), but these benefits are more likely to be realized if the spices are purchased and consumed correctly. 

Conventional Spices Contain Harmful Ingredients

There are many reasons for adding spices to food, including enhancing flavor, boosting nutritional value, and also preserving freshness.  Unfortunately, when we buy conventional spices, they often contain more negative qualities than positive. Like conventional food found in supermarkets, many of the spices we find on the shelves are treated with chemicals, contain GMOs and are irradiated. Virtually all conventional spices sold in the United States are fumigated [sterilized] with hazardous chemicals that are banned in Europe.

Conventional Spices

What is Irradiation?

Food irradiation is the process of using radiation to kill bacteria and other contaminants. But while radiation is used to reduce bacteria in the spices we are consuming, the finished product has decreased levels of vitamins and natural enzymes. Irradiation changes the chemical composition of a spice, potentially creating toxic, carcinogenic by-products in the food and increasing our exposure to free radicals. Free radicals cause aging and disease – something we want to avoid at all costs!

How To Buy Spices Safely

With that said, it’s extremely important to fill our pantries with spices that promote health, rather than take away from it.  Below are strategies for buying spices to make flavorful dishes, promote health and limit your exposure to hidden toxins.

  1. Always buy organic spices – not only will they not have toxic pesticides, but they also will not be irradiated. Organic spices cannot have genetically engineered ingredients (GMOs), artificial colors, preservatives, and other synthetic anti-caking agents. (Some of my favorite spice companies include – Simply OrganicFrontier, and various store-brands that are organic.)
  2. Buy spices from the bulk bin to get the most bang for your buck. Buying a small amount ensures the spices will be used in an appropriate amount of time. 
  3. Check the expiration date. Spices, unlike wine, do not get better with age. Make sure you clean out your pantry often to avoid using expired spices. With age, spices lose their powerful benefits.
  4. Replace conventional spices as soon as possible. If your spice cabinet is full of conventional spices, start to buy organic spices for each new recipe you make week after week, eventually you’ll have a whole new assortment of organic spices to choose from. 

Share This Info With Everyone You Know!

If you know someone who could use a spice cabinet spruce up, please share this post with them. They will hopefully love you for it.

Spreading good cheer, 
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152 responses to “Are There Harmful Ingredients Lurking In Your Spice Cabinet?

  1. I prefer my spices freshly ground. I can leave them in my cupboard without worrying about them going stale in 6 weeks. They’re non-irradiated so I know I’m getting the health benefits. And they taste 1000 times better. I mean I fresh grind my coffee. Why would I treat my spices any differently. Buy whole spices. Repurpose an old coffee Grinder. And for light use by ready to go grinders from the folks at Cape Herb & Spice (there are a couple other brands as well, but I’ve never used them)..

  2. I would like to know FoodBabe’s opinion on Wildtree products. I have been using these organic, preservative free products for cooking lately, and the girl i buy it from wants me to become a rep for them , but I follow FoodBabe and do not want to put my name on something that is not good for our bodies. Has she ever looked into Wildtree?

    Thank You

    1. Wildtree rocks! We have been using Wildtree culinary blends for 7 years. Organic, GMO free and taste great!

      1. Did anyone ever find out if FoodBabe has tried Wildtree and what her thoughts are on this product?

    2. I have the exact same question!! I’ve been trying to decide whether to sign up because some of the ingredients in the boxed mixes are questionable but the seasonings are really good.

    3. I would love to know Food Babe’s opinion on Wildtree Products as well. I am a Rep & honestly can not imagine a negative thing she could possibly say about our products. LOVE Wildtree!!!

  3. Thanks Food Babe! I will be purchasing this cinnamon today at my local market! I’m SO happy they have it!! YAY!!

  4. So, we have a problem here….the fact that Frontier, which is the same company as Simply Organic, has China as their source. I have read that conditions are deplorable in China, with polluted water as well as the air and that human waste is considered organic! So, how can you feel comfortable consuming this brand of spices?

    I would really like to know, as I have been using these same brands myself and have discovered just TODAY, the source of being grown and manufactured in China! I am kind of freaked out right now and wanting to find an organic source in the US.

    1. Hi — I’m a little concerned about this, regarding China as the source for all of Frontier’s spices, as stated above.

      I just purchased a large 1 lb. bag of their fair trade “Powdered Ceylon Cinnamon” (Cinnamomum velum) and it states that it is grown in Sri Lanka. Does anyone know if this is *not* the case?

      I’m not talking about the cassia varieties, but what is referred to as ‘true’ cinnamon (c. velum). Thank you for any information or insights.

      1. Frontier does not source all spices from China. Garlic and ginger, for example, are sourced from China, but are Well Earth certified. Well Earth is a program that promotes the sustainable production of natural and organic products through close partnerships with suppliers. Frontier seeks out sourcing partners who are as committed to quality botanicals and sound social and environmental principles as they are. Their Well Earth suppliers help them produce high-quality, socially responsible products that customers can feel good about using. They’re healthy and they’re made with integrity. Frontier’s organic ginger supplier from China is also Social Audit-certified through InterTek. This certification requires the company to pay above average wages while ensuring employee safety. Furthermore, employees are provided access to health care and other benefits such as overtime pay, time off policies and ability to meet and unionize if they want.

        Also, all organic products sold as certified organic in the United States are required to follow the U.S. standards and be certified by a USDA-accredited certifier.

    1. I shop at Penzy’s sometimes. I asked the store clerk if the spices were
      organic and she had no idea and had no idea where they were made. I won’t be going back.

      1. Wow! I just went to Penzey’s yesterday and asked if their cayenne pepper was irradiated and the cashier asked me what irradiation meant!

    2. I have heard that Penzey’s is not irradiated. If you google Penzey’s and irradiation you will find some sources. They are not organic if they do not have the USDA seal on them. I have never purchased a Penzey’s spice that was organic.

      1. I have shopped at Penzey’s as well, but never thought to ask if they were organic. Excellent spices, but very expensive. I thought I was getting the best spices, but now I’m not so sure!

  5. Always great information, Vani. I have recently been researching the health benefits of spices. I never knew of the healing properties of spices before, always thought they were only for flavouring.

    Do you mind if I share this article with my readers?

  6. Excellent research. After doing my own research recently, I decided I had to get rid of my normal McCormick spices. So I replaced all my spices with organic. I three out every spice in my cabinet and bought 18 organic spices from Simply Organic on amazon. Can’t wait to start cooking with them!

    1. I have cleared my cabinet of all Simply Organic spices. A recent study by the independent testing group, Consumer , reported an excessive amount of insect parts in Simply Organic spices. I called Simply Organic several times and wrote to them to get their side, but they refused to respond to any of my requests. To me, that says all I need to know.

      1. Jeri, I’ve called Simply Organic before about this report and they’ve explained there is nothing to worry about. They even gave me their actual report. I did more research and found that this bozo sells these false reports so people will stop buying good quality products and buy his instead. Apparently the owner of the site owns hundreds of other sites and uses irresponsible marketing tactics to scare people buying his products. It’s unfortunate that people believe everything they read. Simply Organic is a good company with wonderful, sustainable practices. Don’t believe some bogus report.

      2. Lisa,

        I first became of aware of Consumer Lab through Dr. Oz, a source I trust and respect. It’s really too bad people cannot intelligently discern the difference between a company’s sales propaganda vs. fact. For decades, cigarette manufactures said their product was completely safe and had absolutely no correlation to lung cancer. How did that work out? You either work for Simply Organic or are quite naive. Let’s see. Who do I believe…You (whoever you are) and the folks at Simply Organic or an independent source, such as Dr. Oz? That’s a no-brainer.

      3. interesting info about consumer labs can be found at the healthwyze website

        They allege it’s a front group

  7. Hi Vani,

    I emailed you last month about a new organic spice shop. Spice it Up in NJ carries organic spices, spicely brand, as well as many other products such as oils, vinegars, gluten free baking mixes, hot sauces, etc… It’s a great shop, worth checking out!

  8. Hi Vani! I recently came across a blog post about the harmfulness of cinnamon, more specifically cassia cinnamon. Apparently ceylon cinnamon is better. What kind of cinnamon do you recommend???

  9. Can you PLEASE find out if their products are Pure, Safe and Beneficial…So expensive and so many claims being made…Please help educate the public and save people time and money…They say their products are non GMO…but I really wonder
    Thank you

  10. I read through most of the comments, sorry if I missed this or if anyone already asked, but are there any websites that sell cheaper organic spices? My local organic store does not sell spices in bulk and they are insanely expensive at the Whole Foods near me.

      1. Great, thanks! I didn’t realize those were links to websites ha. I was buying Frontier at Kroger before but I moved and the closest one to me is an hour away :/

        Thanks again!

    1. The Bulk Herb Store and Mountain Rose Herbs are both amazing and affordable places to buy bulk spices and herbs online. I have always been happy with my frequent purchases from both stores. The Bulk Herb Store tends to have cheaper shipping, but not quite as big of a selection as MRH.

      1. Can you or Vani RECOMMEND WHAT MATERIAL -MORTAR AND PESTLE-IS THE HEALTHIEST AND SAFEST-to grind our spices??? MARBLE? CAST IRON? CERAMIC? STAINLESS STEEL? GRANITE? VOLCANIC LAVA?…. There are soooo many to choose from! Some materials, are much less toxic, than others… PLEASE FIND OUT WHICH KIND IS BEST FOR US TO USE ????!! Thanks so much!!! ; )

  11. I buy most of my spices in bulk at Whole Foods but I also supplement with herbs and spices from Mountain Rose Herbs in Oregon. They are a small family owned company (right down the road from my sister-in-law). Not all of their products are certified organic but they’re a company with a high standard for integrity and I feel I’m getting an honest answer when I ask a question.

  12. What are your thoughts on buying spices at your local spice shop? I buy mine at Savory Spice Shop in Raleigh.

  13. You can purchase in bulk from Frontier, Starwest Botanical, and Mountain Rose without having a resale license.
    I am sorry people are trusting Dr. Oz just because of who he is. He has made mistakes before costing companies many customers. He eventually does apologize but that same group of people did not hear his retraction.
    Just because an authority figures endorses it or says it does not mean they checked out the source.
    Who am I? A natural food retailer who does extensive research on the products I offer.

    1. Fyi- Dr. Oz’s wife Lisa-is EXTREMELY HOLISTIC-and has been so, forever. ( Anti-vaccines, etc…. ) Lisa Oz also, has her OWN healthy, holistic living show on The Veria Channel. ( Holistic TV Channel.) His mother in law is holistic, too. Their daughter, Daphne Oz-a co-host of the food show ” The Chew” on TV-was raised, without EVER having eaten a SINGLE, hot dog. ( Nitrates and Nitrites.) All of their children have been raised holisticallly. Here in New York, Dr. Oz is extremely well respected-as one of the TOP, Cardiac Surgeons, in the country. He is not just some flash in the pan, talk show host. Just remember, how he went after the Apple Juice companies, TWICE-and how he was right and how much resistence he received….

      1. Meaning-he is a LOT more holistically minded, than he lets on. ; ) He is constantly SURROUNDED BY HIS FAMILY AND IS CONSTANTLY REMINDED OF IT-Especially, since his daughter, son in law and brand, new precious grand daughter, all live with him. He wants to make sure EVERYBODY STAYS AS HEALTHY AS POSSIBLE!!

  14. Organic is good in most cases except when youre dealing with salmonella poisoning so either way you look at it, you run a risk in eating organic and non organic foods. Plus alot of your so called organic grains have cross contamination. Alot of the foods imported from other countries that say organic doesnt necessarily mean safety!

  15. boosting metabolism (paprika)… hahaha it is ridiculous.. paprika is 100% GMO

    Paprika is the name of genetically modified named…
    Simply Organic, Frontier, are same company like as L’oreal owns Este lauder, Kiel, etc… (multinational company)..
    Don’t trust kosher they always lie. Koshor company are connect with wallstreet and Jewshish money

  16. I am testing with Frontier cadamom seeds. I am wondering these will be sprouted or not.
    If you guys are really worry about irradiation, test it !
    I don’t trust ground spices !
    Buy whole seed spices, soak in the water and test those ! always
    If these are not sprouted, It is 100% irradiation or GMO seed

    US goverment alway hide truth. That is why we are hard to buy whole grains in USA.
    _always buy whole grain spices and test and then ground in home and use for your cooking

  17. I don’t recall ever seeing any scientific studies that showed irradiated foods are bad. While it is possible that they are bad (for you), I suspect this is more about F.U.D.

    Two of the biggest hazards are drinking water and breathing air. You don’t know what’s in them but it’s very likely there’s stuff in both that’s bad for you. Saturated fat if probably a bigger death trap for most Americans. It’s part of the American food pyramid…salt, sugar and fat. Make no mistake, there’s plenty of room in the American food pyramid for other nasty stuff, id est, chemicals, preservatives, colorings.

    Take Kraft Macaroni and Cheese…why does Kraft insist on putting obnoxious dyes in their product. You can buy a cleaner version, without the dyes, if you live in Europe. Annie’s Homegrown (whatever that means…does she grow the noodles in her garden?) macaroni and cheese leaves out the dyes but if you compare Annies to Kraft, dyes aside, they are very similar in other nutritional aspects. Annies says they don’t use cheese enzymes derived from animals but Kraft does not make any such claim. So my guess is they are using rennet derived from animal’s intestines, etc. Kraft also adds vitamins while Annie’s does not. In other aspects like fat and sugar they appear to be roughly the same although Annies is a smaller package, 6 ounces to Kraft’s 7.25. The fat and sugar will also be affected by whether you add margarine or butter and what kind of milk. Kraft appears to be keeping the fat content down by specifying margarine and 2% milk. Annie’s is basically the same on the milk and butter is optional. So the butter probably is not taken into account on the saturated fat percentage.

    So if you are all hyped up about the yellow dyes alone, you may be missing the big picture. Still, just like caramel in cola, I see no need for the yellow dyes in mac ‘n cheese. Annie’s substitutes annatto for the yellow dyes but my feeling is leave that out too if it’s only there for coloring.

    And whether you like it or not, you have been eating GM foods for decades. All those fruits and vegetables out there that we call “hybrids” like the Ramapo tomato, are genetically modified foods.

    There are people who profit by putting all sorts of junk into our food and lots of people who profit from whipping up mass hysteria about the same junk.

    Learn how to identify each. If no credible sources are cited, be skeptical.

  18. I love seeing this article! I started a clean eating food journey in 2009. It wasn’t long before I could not in good conscious put store bought and eventually even Penzi’s seasonings on pure pastured meats. I had started buying from local small family meat farms, and don’t no time to give an herb garden the attention it needs, sooo a seasoning genius friend of mine and I started hand blending our own in bulk herbs and spices from the premier organic herb companies in America. Our blends are complex and most importantly healthy and delicious… perfect for the highly prized pure pastured meats and vegetables from farmers markets. You can find our small company of hand blended seasonings and teas at

  19. Spices have grown for hundreds of years around the world, you can not grow cinnamon in the United States. The United States uses the most pesticides and therefore they require the organic rating. Spices do not require pesticides,and they do not require irradiation. Penzeys spices does neither of those things,and by the way I find the spices are cheaper than McCormick so perhaps take another look.

    1. Ah yes….Penzey’s. Unfortunately, while absent pesticides and irradiation, they come with something more toxic: a CEO that uses his customers email addresses to shove his political rants and opinions down their throats. And while other companies CEOs have publicly expressed political leanings (Chik Fil A, Hobby Lobby, Starbucks), none have used their customers private email list to chastise those that don’t agree with him, like Bill Penzey does.

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