Below you will find the most frequently asked questions regarding our spices and ingredients. If you have any unanswered questions, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and a real person will reply to you promptly.
Why do you have MSG in some of your spice blends? Isn't it unhealthy?
MSG is not an unnatural or "chemical" additive, rather it is a natural ingredient found in tomatoes, meat, cheese, mushrooms, seaweed, soy...etc. We source our MSG from sugar beets. The FDA considers the addition of MSG to foods to be “generally recognized as safe” (in studies with individuals given MSG or a placebo, scientists have not been able to consistently trigger reactions).
Because MSG suffers from poor branding (going by its chemical compound name rather than a more palatable name like "salt" for sodium chloride), many misguided "health experts" have stoked fears regarding the ingredient. So, unless you have an allergy to any foods that naturally contain MSG, you can be assured that it is both safe to eat and delicious; both salt and sugar are less healthy to consume out of moderation.
Here's the list of our blends that contain MSG:
English Prime Rib Rub (seasonal blend sold in November and December)
Due to the decades of claims of MSG's negative health benefits being highly dubious and refuted by clinical studies, we are developing some new blends with MSG to be as flavorful as possible, but will always list the ingredient in the ingredients listing for those that wish to avoid consuming it.
Is there lead or heavy metals in Turmeric?
We do our best to ensure that our spices are farmed and sold responsibly with regard to both environmental impact and the treatment of labor, and have built up many trusted relationships with our farmers and producers over the last 60 years in this business. The FDA has not established a recommended maximum level for heavy metals (eg, lead, chromium) in spices in the United States. However, several existing regulatory tools have been conferred by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act and the Food Safety Modernization Act for preventing contaminated spices from reaching consumers in the United States.
Spice House Turmeric is processed in the US and therefore not at risk for the adulteration that is occasionally seen in turmeric powder that has been ground overseas. Our suppliers receive whole turmeric from Indonesia, Vietnam, or India and then process it in a facility in the USA. We receive the ground turmeric from our supplier and do not grind it ourselves.
Quality and freshness are our calling cards, so we assure you that we are offering the best products we can procure from trusted vendors.
Are there poisonous pesticides in spices?
While a majority of our spices are treated by ETO, steam, or cold pasteurization to rid them of any invasive species/molds, we cannot guarantee that no pesticides were used with our spices and herbs. We do our best to ensure that our spices are farmed and sold responsibly with regard to both environmental impact and the treatment of labor, and have built up many trusted relationships with our farmers and producers over the last 60 years in this business.
Do you offer organic spices?
Sadly, we no longer offer our line of certified organic spices. The USDA now requires that all of our locations be licensed certified organic in order to sell any spices labeled as "organic." We have found that over the years, our conventional versions of spices have generally been higher quality in terms of flavor and aroma when compared with their organic counterparts. For that reason we've decided not to pursue organic certification in our facilities and have discontinued our organic line.
For spices, the term "organic" has a slightly different meaning than it does with many other food products. Organic spices are generally steam treated, rather than using other common methods of sterilization in our industry. While some may prefer steam sterilization, the process negatively impacts the color and flavor of the final product.
Being a smaller company allows us to be picky about both the quality and responsible sourcing of our spices and herbs. All of our vendors must follow FDA guidelines for pesticide residues and we continue to work only with vendors that we trust and that have a proven track record of exceptional quality. Organic spices are also certified fair trade; please see the "Fair Trade" heading in this FAQ for concerns on labor practices.
Are your spices vegan?
All the spices, blends, and products we package are vegan except for all cheese blends and products (*See our list of dairy-containing products below), and three blends that contain a butter flavoring that lists "butter extractives" in its ingredients:
There is no risk of cross contamination because all dairy products are stored and processed in a separate room with designated equipment.
Some of our blends are made with Worcestershire sauce powder. The Worcestershire sauce powder we use is also vegan.
All of our extracts and flavorings are vegan.
Aside from cheese blends, we also offer non-vegan products such as soup and gravy bases. These products arrive already in their final packaging and are not brought into the production center. There is no opportunity for cross contact between our vegan and non-vegan products.
Are your spices nut-free?
Our spices and blends are nut-free and pose no risk of allergy concerns.
Pink Peppercorns are related to cashews, so persons with a tree nut allergy may have a reaction and should avoid them and our Peppercorns Royale blend. Our Pink Peppercorns and the Pepper Royale blend are processed and stored separately from all of our other spices to ensure there is no cross contact with all of our other offerings.
What are the "natural flavors" in your extracts?
The Spice House does not manufacture our extracts in-house, rather we source them from reputable flavor companies whose quality and integrity we have trusted for decades. The natural flavors are proprietary to the manufacturer and we do not have any further information beyond the ingredients listed on our website and that the ingredients are certified natural. The FDA defines: "natural flavor" as "constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice", and they are vegan and nut-free. We have never, and will never use artificial flavors or chemicals in any of our extracts.
Why is there Silicon Dioxide in the Chili Powder?
We personally do not add any anti-caking agents to our spices, but we source the ground ancho and hacienda chiles used for our Chili Powders from a supplier that does add silicon dioxide to prevent caking. This product is unparalleled in quality and flavor so we will continue to use this product despite it breaking slightly with our "no additives" stance. The FDA allows silicon dioxide as a direct addition to food for human consumption if it has been demonstrated to have an anti-caking effect.
Silicas are some of the most abundant materials on earth and are found to occur naturally in water, plants and animals. The FDA limits silicon dioxide in food to be less than 2% by weight and remains inert when ingested, passing through the body intact.
Why is there Corn Syrup in some blends?
We use citrus powders to add flavor to some of our favorite spice blends. The citrus oil that provides those fresh flavors requires a neutral-flavored "carrier" to convert the product from a liquid to a powder; allowing it to be mixed into dry applications such as spice blends.
Corn based sugars are a common carrier for these volatile oils and you'll typically see them listed as maltodextrin or corn syrup solids. This glucose base (not be confused with high fructose corn syrup) is the perfect medium to capture bright citrus flavors and is easily digested by our bodies.
Why is there Maltodextrin in some blends?
Maltodextrin is commonly used as a powdered base to carry the flavors from liquids or oils. Due to its neutral flavor, adding a liquid such as lemon oil to maltodextrin will create a lemon juice-flavored powder. We do have a select few flavors that are on a maltodextrin base so a liquid's flavor can be converted to a powder and therefore mixed onto a dry spice blend. While maltodextrin-based powders are primarily sugars, they will always make up very small percentages of the total ingredients in your recipes.
Why is there Sugar in some blends?
We make our spice blends to be as flavorful and delicious as possible and "sweet" is an important flavor to consider when creating a balanced spice blend. While we pride ourselves in selling fresh, quality ingredients, we do not make claims that we are a health food company. Our blends are created to be delicious first and foremost. We use sugar for that perfect balance of flavor and for its ability to caramelize and create complexity during cooking. If consuming sugar is a concern, please note that sugar will always be listed in the ingredients of our products if it is present.
Are there sulfites in your spices?
Our Ginger products are the only items in our lineup that contain sulfites:
Sulfites are used to preserve the natural yellow color of the Ginger from turning gray or brown in the drying and candying processes. Sulfites do not cause true allergic reactions, and are generally grouped with the priority food allergens because sulphite-sensitive individuals may react to sulfites with allergy-like symptoms*. Sulfites are commonly found in dried fruits, jams, wines and canned vegetables, just to name a few, and the FDA requires that we declare the presence of sulfites when the concentration meets or exceeds 10 parts per million. Only our Ground Ginger and Crystalized Ginger Slices are over this 10ppm threshold; the Crystallized Ginger Nibs and Sweet Nib Mix have less than 10ppm.
*For our Canadian customers: sulfites are considered a major allergen in Canada.
Are your spices fair trade?
We source our spices from around the world and do our best to acquire the highest quality spices from their land of origin. Being a smaller company allows us to be picky about both the quality and responsible sourcing of our spices and herbs. We do our best to ensure that our spices are farmed and sold responsibly with regard to both environmental impact and the treatment of labor, and have built up many trusted relationships with our farmers and producers over the last 60 years that we have been in business.
Do your spices come from China?
The world has been sourcing spices from China since the 13th and 14th centuries. China is an important player in the global spice trade and is fully integrated into the world's food supply chain. We source the highest quality ingredients available and that includes Chinese products such as ginger root, sichuan peppercorns, and shiitake mushrooms, just to name a few. These are products which naturally originate and grow in China. The Spice House has a supplier approval program in order to evaluate potential risk from various countries and vendors to ensure that we are sourcing the best possible ingredients from the best possible places.
Why do some of your spice blend ingredients list just "spices?"
While we list all ingredients deemed to be the eight major food allergens under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA), we do retain the right to list some ingredients as "spices" to retain the intellectual property of our blends. Our ingredient listings comply with FDA guidance. Any major allergens, preservatives, or anti-caking agents must, by law, be listed in the ingredients section on our website and package labels. The term "spices" cannot be used in place of any ingredients that are within those categories.
Is there diacetyl in your extracts?
We don't formulate any of our flavors and extracts with the chemical Diacetyl, however, since it can appear naturally as a reaction product, we do not claim there is none present, as we do not test each lot given the limited potential / risk as the amount possible in any of our flavorings would be trace.
Is Mexican Vanilla Extract dangerous?
Our vanilla extract production is done in the USA. Our supplier receives the vanilla beans from Madagascar, Mexico, or Tahiti and then processes them into our pure Vanilla Extracts, removing concerns of this fraud and danger.
Even as regulation continues to improve transparency in our industry, food fraud is still a common concern in the spice trade. Oregano can be cut with other leaf material, paprika and turmeric can be dyed to improve color, and vanilla can be flavored with other similar tasting ingredients. All of this "cheating" is in the name of reducing higher costs associated with quality. Impure Mexican vanilla can be cut with tonka beans which taste similar to vanilla beans, but have high coumarin levels that have been shown to cause adverse reactions with some medications.
Will my spices expire, and when?
Most spices do not "expire." Spices will lose flavor and color over time, as their volatile oils (from where the aromas and flavors derive) evaporate, but spoiling is not a concern for a majority of our products (exceptions: cheese powders/blends and sesame seeds are recommended to be replaced each year). For optimal flavor, we recommend that our ground spices and blends get used within 12 to 18 months, after opening. If your spices are moving beyond that time frame, you're still fine to use them, but you'll find that you're using more to match the original flavor punch. As we reconsider our packaging and labeling, we are planning to add a suggested "use by" date on our spices.
Aren't Sichuan Peppercorns banned in the United States?
In the past, it was not possible to purchase Sichuan peppercorns in the US due to a mold (citrus canker) that could potentially destroy our domestic citrus production. The ban was later lifted as heating requirements were applied to the import the peppercorns. The FDA has since removed the ban and additional heating requirements, but imported spices still require a "kill step" such as steam treatment, ETO gas, or cold pasteurization. Our Sichuan peppercorns undergo heating to at least 140F but remain the most fragrant and flavorful that we've seen available on the market. We will continue to carry this product, and our supplier has not informed us of any intention to change their production methods.
Do your spices contain GMOs?
All of our pure spices are GMO free. Genetic Modification is not a common practice in spice agriculture. The exception is products that contain maltodextrin (corn-based) like Worcestershire powder and smoke powder. Corn may be sourced from GMO crops but the proteins are denatured during production of the maltodextrin base. We list all ingredients on each spice blend's profile on our site so you can avoid these items, if you wish.
Can spices have E. coli?
We pride ourselves in offering the freshest and most flavorful spices on the market, with the utmost attention paid to purity and cleanliness. Spices are at very low risk for spreading E. coli. Where possible, our spices and herbs are professionally dehydrated and treated for pests and microorganisms. We do not do any processing of high-risk items such as fresh produce, meat, or fresh dairy at our facilities. We use shelf-stable cheese powder and anhydrous lactose in a few products, which do not pose a risk for E. coli.
Are your spices gluten-free?
All of our items are gluten-free with the exception of our Demi-Glace stocks, all of which come to us prepackaged and have not cross-contacted our facility.
Which of your products contain dairy?
All of our whole and ground spices are dairy and milk-free. Spice blends containing dairy are: