Food First Blog | Tip of the Week: Proper Attention to Spice

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Tip of the Week: Proper Attention to Spice
Tip of the Week: Proper Attention to Spice

As food companies expand their selection of seasoned products, proper attention must be given to the procurement, storage, and handling of spices, seeds, and seasonings. Here are our tips for correctly maintaining the flavors of fall and all the seasons.

  • Store all spices and seeds between 50º and 70º ambient temperature in industrial bakery applications.
  • In smaller, store-bakery settings, store all spices and seeds at room temperature.
  • Keep them away from hot ovens or rooms where temperatures rise above room temperature.
  • Store spices for no longer than one year.
  • Do not refrigerate or freeze spices or seeds.

Freezing may burst the cells of seeds and spices, causing a loss of oil after thawing. In addition, the thawing process causes inside-the-bag condensation that can promote mold or bacteria growth even if the spices have been treated.

  • Be sure that the spices or seeds have been treated to kill microbes such as salmonella, E. coli and other pathogens.

Suppliers should be asked directly whether the spices or seeds have been treated. A good distributor will purchase spices from a supplier who can provide letters of guarantee that the product has been treated to kill microbes and pathogens. (This confirmation is less important if the spice will be applied before heat processing, which will kill many pathogens.)

  • Until recently, spices available in the US have been cleaned and ground in the US by reputable companies that must provide letters of guarantee assuring proper cleaning and treatment.

Now, an increasing supply of already-processed (and generally less-expensive) spices is entering the US. Some foreign sources also provide letters of guarantee. However, recovering damages from foreign companies can be more difficult than from companies governed by US laws, so determine where the supplier obtained the spices you are buying, and ask for letters of guarantee if you want them on file. The selection of an experienced supplier of spices or seasoning blends can create a partnership that will contribute to the manufacturer’s success. A reputable supplier of spices and seeds has relationships with growers of raw spices around the world. The spice supplier’s facility will clean and grind the spices and herbs and prepare them for resale or blending. Many of these suppliers have a policy of selling spices that are treated to reduce microbes or pathogens to minute levels.

Three methods of treating spices to reduce pathogens include the use of ethylene oxide, propylene oxide or irradiation (treatment with low-level radiation). The quality of a spice is determined by the region in which it grows and the weather of a particular growing season. A reputable supplier will provide certificates of analysis to guarantee consistent quality from one shipment to the next. One desired quality attribute is the volatile-oil level, which can shift from region to region and from one crop year to the next. Volatile essential oils are powerfully concentrated plant essences found in a variety of plant parts including leaves, roots, seeds and flower parts. When these oils are essential to the overall flavor profile of the finished product, the supplier should extract volatile oils from incoming ingredient samples and measure them in the quality assurance laboratory to ensure they meet the customer’s specification.









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