The Maldives Food and Drug Authority (MFDA) has banned the import and sale of select products from Indian spice manufacturers MDH and Everest. The move comes after findings that these products allegedly contain high levels of ethylene oxide, a carcinogenic pesticide.

This decision aligns with similar actions taken by Singapore and Hong Kong and comes as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it is gathering information on the products.

Earlier this month, Hong Kong suspended sales of three MDH spice blends and an Everest spice mix for fish curries. Singapore followed suit, ordering a recall of the Everest spice mix, citing high levels of ethylene oxide, a substance deemed unfit for human consumption and a potential cancer risk with long-term exposure.

In an advisory, the MFDA stated that it had gathered information indicating that some MDH and Everest products allegedly contained ethylene oxide, which is carcinogenic to humans. The products now banned from sale and import in the Maldives include MDH’s Madras curry powder, sambar masala, and mixed masala powder, in addition to the fish curry masala produced by Everest.

Ethylene oxide, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, is a flammable colourless gas with a sweet odour at room temperature. It is primarily used to produce other chemicals, including antifreeze, and, in smaller amounts, as a pesticide and a sterilising agent.

The MFDA stated that these products are imported into the Maldives in substantial volumes. In light of recent developments, the agency is engaged in a comprehensive process of gathering information and analysing risk assessment studies about using these products, it said.

MDH and Everest spices, among the most popular in India, are also sold in Europe, Asia, and North America. In response to the moves in Hong Kong and Singapore, India’s food regulator, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), is now checking the quality standards of the two companies, according to Reuters news agency.

India’s Spices Board, the government’s regulator for spice exports, said on Wednesday it had sought data on MDH and Everest exports from authorities in Hong Kong and Singapore. The board is working with the companies to find the “root cause” of the quality issues as inspections begin at their plants, it said.

In 2019, a few batches of MDH’s products were recalled in the U.S. for salmonella contamination.