Contact us

Publications and Co-authored Publications

Jenna E. Forsyth, Khatuna Akhalaia, Mariami Jintcharadze, Emily Nash, Petr Sharov, Alena Temnikova, Christlee Elmera (2024). Reductions in spice lead levels in the republic of Georgia: 2020–2022

Spice adulteration using yellow lead chromate-based pigments has been documented as a growing global health concern. Spices from the Republic of Georgia with extremely high levels of lead, up to an order of magnitude higher than any other spices worldwide, have been implicated as sources of child lead poisoning. The objectives of this study were to 1) evaluate lead concentrations in spices sampled across the country of Georgia between 2020 and 2022, and 2) assess factors associated with spice adulteration, specifically the role of spice quality and regulatory enforcement. Spice samples were collected from 29 cities nationwide. The most populous cities were selected in each administrative region as well as those of importance to the spice supply chain. Sampling was carried out at the largest spice bazaars in each city. The regions of Adjara and Imereti were the focus of qualitative interviews conducted in 2021 with key businesspeople selling spices with very high and low levels of lead. The same cities and bazaars were visited at each of three sampling periods between 2020 and 2022. In total, 765 spice samples were collected. Lead concentrations in spices decreased over time, with a maximum of 14,233 μg/g in 2020 down to 36 μg/g in the final sampling round of 2022. A logistic regression determined that sampling round, region and spice type were associated with elevated lead in samples. Samples from Adjara and those containing marigold had the highest lead levels. Interviews with eighteen prominent spice vendors revealed difficulties sourcing sufficient quantities of high quality, brightly colored marigold, and concerns about adulteration. Interviews with two authorities from the National Food Authority highlighted the increased attention on regulating lead in spices since 2018. Continued monitoring and periodic regulatory enforcement may adequately disincentivize further adulteration with lead chromate in the spice industry in Georgia.

Environmental Research (2024) Vol. 250, ISSN 0013-9351