Independent Study: Testing spices for lead content in Türkiye and Ethiopia

May 6, 2024

LEEP Tests spices for lead content in Ethiopia using SciAps XRF

May 2, 2024

Publication: Lead Exposure Elimination Project: “Testing spices for lead content in Türkiye and Ethiopia,” March 20, 2024.

Number of samples collected in Ethiopia by product type. No sample was found to have lead content suggestive of intentional adulteration with lead pigments.

"All samples were packed in polyethylene bags and underwent preliminary analysis with X-Ray spectrometry. LEEP conducted this analysis in the United Kingdom using the SciAps X-550 Pb, using a cut-off point of 5 ppm for signs of adulteration with lead pigment. We did not detect lead levels above 5 ppm in any of the 211 samples.

"A subset of 31 samples was analysed at Food Forensics Limited, an accredited lab in Norwich, United Kingdom, using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). The subset consisted of turmeric, berbere, chilli, shiro, food colourant, and pepper, and was chosen based on colour vibrancy. All 31 samples were found to have less than 2 ppm lead content. The range of total lead content was 0.04 - 0.67 ppm. The median total lead content was 0.15 ppm.”


  • LEEP conducted studies to determine the lead content of spices in Türkiye and Ethiopia.
  • Spices are a commonly adulterated food product and studies have previously demonstrated the addition of lead chromate pigments in some spice supply chains.
  • Results from two new studies show that no spice samples collected in Türkiye (30 samples) or Ethiopia (211 samples) contained levels of lead consistent with adulteration with lead pigments.
  • Neither of the sample sets are exhaustively representative of the full spice industry in either country. Still, the studies suggest that spice adulteration with lead pigments is not occurring at a widespread level.

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About this site: LEEP is a partner of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint, was incubated by Charity Entrepreneurship, and is supported by Schmidt Futures, Greenbridge Family Foundation, Founders Pledge, Open Philanthropy, and a number of generous individuals.

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