Among the popular vacation souvenirs are spices, but also tea, from the food sector. The risk is that the limits that apply in the European Union (EU), for example for pesticides, can be significantly exceeded in other countries, often due to a lack of controls.
During inspections of imports into the EU, there were more than 150 reports of spices and herbs between August 2019 and August 2020, according to the European Rapid Alert System. Especially black pepper, paprika and chili powder as well as fresh and dried herbs have attracted negative attention and have been rejected because they were contaminated, for example, with mold toxins such as aflatoxins and ochratoxin and especially with germs (salmonella, coli bacteria, bacillus cereus). Also foreign bodies were found. A pepper blend from Tunisia contained red paternoster peas (Abrus precatorius) instead of red peppercorns. These contain the toxic ingredient abrin, which can lead to severe poisoning or even fatalities. Most of these conspicuous products came from Asia and Africa, less frequently from Eastern Europe.
Banned azo dyes – especially the carcinogenic sudan red, pararot, orange II and rhodamine – are repeatedly found in chili, paprika, curry and cayenne bell pepper imported into the EU. By these and other for spices not certified colorings a better product quality is pretended. The extent to which this also affects spices sold in these countries is unclear. Sensorically, the admixtures are not detectable. More expensive spices such as saffron, turmeric or Ceylon cinnamon are also falsified.
Undeclared admixtures for stretching (adulteration) of dried herbs such as oregano are also frequently found. For example, dried crushed olive leaves are used for this purpose. However, these are not approved as foodstuffs (the Novel Food approval is missing). The investigation office in Stuttgart has made a special focus investigation for this purpose. Oregano and cumin from Turkey in particular have recently been found to contain liver-toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids more frequently during border controls. These get into the product through contamination with other wild herbs.
Honey and herbal teas
Honey and herbal teas are also often brought home. Some honeys, however, may contain elevated levels of active ingredients from poisonous plants that bees introduce into the honey with the nectar or pollen. Honey (but also herbal teas) may contain the liver-toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Particularly affected are honeys from South and Central America.
Honey from the Turkish Black Sea region (Pontic honey, Turkish wild honey, bitter honey) can contain high levels of grayanotoxins, which can lead to acute symptoms of poisoning (dizziness, drop in blood pressure, slow heartbeat, paralysis, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea). Grayanotoxins are plant toxins that occur primarily in rhododendron species that are widespread on the Turkish Black Sea coast.
In addition, allergic reactions to the "unknown" spices and herbs have been reported Pollen not to be excluded. In addition, especially honeys from Canada, the USA or South America can contain pollen from genetically modified plants, from Southern Europe rather not.
With "natural" Herbal teas appear again and again here inadmissible ingredients such as senna, chrysanthemum leaves, ephedra or even strong laxative anthraquinones (carcinogenic and hereditary).
Attention, toxic heavy metals!
Chronic lead poisoning after vacations is often caused, for example, by ceramic vessels, glasses or beer mugs from vacation destinations. These are mostly not suitable for serving food, but only as decoration. Plastic bags printed with lead inks also pose risks if they come into contact with foodstuffs.
Likewise high heavy metal contents (above all lead, partly also arsenic) contain many ayurvedic food auxiliary means bought in Southeast Asia.
According to the rapid alert system, metal kitchen utensils such as pizza cutters, barbecue utensils, pans, pots, etc. also fall again and again. from Asia due to excessive amounts of nickel, cobalt or chromium on.
For melamine dishes, spatulas, etc. from there often too much released melamine and formaldehyde, Bisphenol A and partly carcinogenic primary aromatic amines are measured.
Even seemingly environmentally friendly bamboo tableware is by no means always made of 100 percent bamboo but unfortunately often contains melamine or other plastic admixtures.
Restrictions and prohibitions
Import restrictions or even bans apply to quite a few foods: