Who are the two iconic Indian spice brands under scrutiny?
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Who are the two iconic Indian spice brands under scrutiny?

Who are the two iconic Indian spice brands under scrutiny?

For decades, India’s spice makers MDH and Everest have been ubiquitous in kitchens around the world, with their products being essential ingredients in a range of preparations

spice - Everest

Popular Indian spice brand MDH, under scrutiny for alleged contamination in some products, has since 2021 seen an average 14.5 per cent of its US shipments rejected due to the presence of bacteria, a Reuters analysis of US regulatory data found.

Hong Kong suspended sales last month of three spice blends made by MDH and one by another Indian company, Everest, for apparently containing high levels of a cancer-causing pesticide. Ethylene oxide is unfit for human consumption and a cancer risk with long exposure.

The companies have said their products are safe and MDH added it does not use ethylene oxide at any stage of storing, processing, or packing of spices. Authorities in the US States, Australia and India are looking into the matter. Both brands are popular in India and are exported around the world.

India is the world’s biggest spice producer and is also the largest consumer and exporter of spices. Zion Market Research estimates India’s domestic market was worth $10.44bn in 2022, and the Spices Board said India exported products worth $4bn during 2022-23.

Before the latest scrutiny, products from MDH, a family-run Indian company more than 100 years old, were rejected for sale in the US due to the presence of salmonella, a bacteria that can lead to gastrointestinal illness.

Around 20 per cent, or 13 of MDH’s 65 shipments to the US were rejected after it failed checks for salmonella between October 2023 – when the current fiscal year started – and May 3, according to the latest available data compiled by Reuters from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA did not state what quantity was contained in each shipment but the 13 shipments rejected included mixed spices and seasonings, as well as fenugreek, according to the data.

In fiscal 2022-23, about 15 per cent of 119 MDH shipments were rejected mostly for salmonella contamination, while the rejections stood at 8.19 per cent during 2021-22, the data showed.

Everest has had fewer rejections in the US with just one of 450 shipments in the ongoing 2023-24 year having been rejected so far for salmonella.

Around 3.7 per cent of Everest’s US shipments were halted in 2022-23 and there were no rejections in the 189 shipments to the US the year before, the data showed.

In response to queries on the FDA data, an MDH spokesperson said its products are safe. Everest said it had an ‘exceptional’ rejection rate of its US shipments of less than 1 per cent in fiscal 2023-2024, adding that their products are safe.

The US FDA and the Spices Board did not respond to requests for comment. The Board has been inspecting MDH and Everest facilities for compliance with quality standards, but the results have not yet been made public.

For decades, MDH and Everest have been among the biggest spice makers in India, making products widely used in home kitchens and restaurants for flavouring curries and many dishes.

In 2019, a few batches of MDH’s spice mix were taken off the shelves in the US for salmonella contamination and in 2023, the FDA recalled a few of Everest’s products over similar findings and issued a public health alert.

For decades, India’s spice makers MDH and Everest have been ubiquitous in kitchens around the world with their products being essential ingredients in chicken and fish curries and vegetable dishes.

Here are some facts and background on the two spice brands:

“Mahashian Di Hatt” popularly known as MDH 

  • New Delhi-based MDH started in 1919 and is a family-run business.
  • It rose to popularity with ads and packaging featuring its founder Dharampal Gulati who sported a handlebar moustache and a turban. Gulati, often dubbed as India’s “Spice King”, died in 2020.
  • MDH’s website says it has 62 products. It deals in grounded spices, as well as spice blends which were created after “decades of research”.
  • MDH has five factories and its products are sold in India and markets such as Australia, the US, Europe, Canada and the UK through a network of more than 400,000 retail dealers.
  • MDH’s revenue for 2022-2023 stood at $260m.


Everest Food Products started in 1967 with three products. Its founder Vadilal Bhai Shah started his business from a small 200 square feet spice shop.

  • With 52 products, Everest today has global presence in around 80 countries, including in North America, Europe, the Middle East, the Asia Pacific and Africa.
  • Some 20 million households use Everest products every day and 3.7 billion packs of its products are sold each year, according to its website. Around 620,000 outlets sell Everest products in 1,000 small towns and cities of India.
  • India’s Bollywood stars Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan are Everest brand ambassadors, appearing together in many TV commercials to promote its products, especially those to make the famous rice dish, biryani.
  • Everest’s net sales for 2022-23 stood at $365m.

Read: World food prices up in April for second month, says UN agency

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