(and other interesting food safety info.)
Recent spice recalls have involved contamination with salmonella, a group of bacteria that live in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals, including birds. Most healthy people infected with salmonella recover within days, but the illness can be serious and even fatal for small children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
The ongoing outbreak of salmonella illness connected to black and crushed red pepper, which sparked a recall of those spices as well as salami products made with them, has been linked to 249 illnesses in 44 states and the District of Columbia. No deaths have been reported.
The long shelf life of spices and their widespread use make it difficult for health officials to detect an outbreak of illness and connect it to a particular spice. WaPo Link
Wholesale spice companies do not have the resources to inspect every box that comes in the warehouse. We only can pull a representative sample which is picked randomly throughout a pallet. The FDA does not have the monetary resources to afford to inspect all the food products being imported. Only 2-3% actually gets inspected. It is up to a company's quality assurance inspectors to make sure the product is fit for human consumption. On one occasion I had to let a batch of gingko biloba be processed even though I had found a dried compressed mouse within the leaves. The sales team pressured me to clean up the product manually and use it to please a new customer. To this day I can not look at a package of pre-made Chai tea without getting nauseous. Urp.