Oregano: less adulterated but still full of pesticides, the new German analyzes

Investigations conducted in 2019 by the German authorities had shown a serious problem of minced oregano adulteration. New analyzes now show improvement (but not for pesticides)

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Oregano is one of the most frequently adulterated spices and "cut" with less valuable herbs to increase weight and consequently earn more. A fraud found several times in various samples purchased in Europe.

In 2019 the CVUA Stuttgart had conducted a survey on the quality of minced oregano (Origanum vulgare L.) highlighting in several cases a problem of adulteration of this product ("cut" precisely with foreign plant material) as well as of contamination with pesticides.

At the time, remarkably high levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA), which is why approximately 70% of the samples were labeled as unsafe. These substances, in fact, despite being natural and found in various plants, can lead to serious poisoning and should therefore not be ingested.

About 20% of the oregano analyzed was later found to be adulterated with large quantities of olive and / or rock rose leaves to maximize profits. Even a sample labeled as "oregano" was made up of only 35% of real oregano, while the rest (65%) were olive leaves.

In addition, about one in three samples of oregano (29%) had levels of pesticides and contaminants above legal limits.

Now it seems that the situation is improving. The German authorities themselves have investigated the matter with a new investigation which they have examined 36 minced oregano samples from retail and wholesale trade and from food processing companies hunting for pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA) and adulteration with foreign plant material.

18 samples were also analyzed for residues of over 750 different pesticides and contaminants.

Following the results, the German authorities write:

Our last year's surveys of chopped oregano point to positive things! Only one oregano sample was adulterated with rock rose leaves. Levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids were on average about 80% lower than in the previous reporting period, although individual oregano samples still showed elevated levels.

As can be seen from the figure below, most of the new oregano samples tested (61%, 22 samples) have BP levels below 1.000 µg / kg, which corresponds to a harmless level for health. In 2019, however, BP levels below 1.000 µg / kg were only observed in about 25% of the oregano samples.

@CVUA Stuttgart

For pesticides, the situation is not rosy: in all samples (100%) it was possible to determine the residues of a total of 24 different pesticide and perchlorate active ingredients. 12 of the tested samples (67%) showed more residues, i.e. more than one phytosanitary active ingredient was detected in these samples at the same time. In one sample, 7 different active ingredients were found. On average, the oregano tested contained 3,3 different substances per sample.

@CVUA Stuttgart

On this aspect the German experts write:

as regards pesticide residues, the situation is virtually unchanged since the last report on oregano. Determined pesticide levels do not pose a health risk to consumers, but they show that good agricultural practices are not being followed and that improvements are needed.

A survey conducted in 21 European countries in 2021 also highlighted a large falsification of this aromatic herb and if we add to this the problem of pesticides, it would definitely seem a good idea to grow a seedling at home and self-produce the oregano. Read: Oregano "cut" with olive leaves: 1 product out of 2 in the EU is adulterated

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Photos: CVUA Stuttgart

Read also:

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  • How to store aromatic herbs and spices
  • Spices and Herbs: a bit of clarity
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