Go ahead … Cilantro your salsa! Nutmeg your spinach! Cinnamon your apples! It’s all about elevating the flavor of your food without added sugar or fat. Plus there’s the added benefit of a little spice; the potential to help fight cancer and inflammation.
From brand names to specialty shops and online markets, a wide variety of spices are available everywhere you look — but there’s one caveat that could have a big consequence for you and your family.
Did you know that imported dried spices can be one of the most contaminated imported foods containing bacteria that cause food poisoning, particularly salmonella? And we’re talking about common spices such as black pepper, oregano and basil.
Although eighty percent of spices in the US are imported, you can put your mind at ease and keep your family safe with these smart steps:
- Heating and toasting spices bring out the fabulous flavors of the natural oils but can also kill bacteria. In cooking, a temperature between 150-170 degrees F will destroy bacteria. On the flip side, freezing spices doesn’t kill salmonella.
- A general rule: the cheaper the spice, the more likely it is to be contaminated. One reason it’s so important to buy quality spices is that if you add them to an already prepared food, salmonella could be added too.
- Ask questions or read online about the food safety practices of the company you buy from such as requirement of their suppliers to make sure spices are safe, if the spices are treated to kill bacteria, etc.
- Label your spices and use them within a year or freeze.
- Don’t miss this tip if someone in your family is at high risk such as a compromised immune system; toast the spices or add during cooking to be very safe.
Now that you are armed with the information you need to stay healthy, go wild! The opportunities to pump up flavor with dried spices are endless. Enjoy the adventure and savor the flavors in every last bite.