Are powdered spices good for you, even expired?

A very common question is are powdered spices good for you? It makes sense since the US is not only the world’s largest spice importer, but also spice consumer averaging 3.7 pounds per person each year.

Powdered spices are a staple in most kitchens and include everything from common spices like cinnamon to more ethnic spices like epazote, a ground leaf spice used in Mexican bean dishes. They can be easily purchased from grocery stores, outlet and discount shops, in open markets and online.

Over the years, some powdered spices have raised health questions regarding their safety, in particular, from foodbourne illnesses including pathogens such as Salmonella and other non-spice ingredients such as dirt and insects.

In 2016, the FDA concluded a 2-year study that looked into public health risks associated with spice consumption. The US Food and Drug Association analyzed 7,249 domestic and imported spice samples from supermarkets, ethnic markets, discount stores and online. The included basil, black pepper, oregano, paprika, red pepper (capsicum), coriander, cumin, curry powder, garlic, sesame seed and white pepper.

They found that during their investigation, 37 spice shipments from 79 countries had Salmonella-contaminated shipments and that approximately 12 percent of the spice shipments contained non-spice ingredients such as animal hair and insects. This is often the result of inadequate storage and/ or packaging.

However, they also found that prior to retail, manufacturers apply a pathogen reduction treatment to many spices after entering the U.S.

So back to the question at hand. Are powdered spices good for you? They’re not bad for you and here’s why. When you use spices, you normally heat-cook with them which kills nearly all bacteria. There are some, like Salmonella, that can survive which is why its requires a thorough cooking. Freezing or refrigerating spices does not kill bacteria such as Salmonella.

While fresh is often considered better, it is not always available. Many dried spices offer the same or comparable taste and health benefits, just in smaller portions since dried herbs are more concentrated (potent) than fresh.

Is it okay to consume dried spices that have expired? The answer is normally yes. Dried spices have an expiry date for their flavor since over time, their flavor tends to fade, but that does not necessarily mean they need to be tossed.

If stored properly in airtight containers away from direct light and heat, dried spices can still be consumed after their expiry date, just with less flavor.

On average, the government suggests an expiry date of four years for whole spices and two years for ground.