Why are they cheap? There are multiple reasons and we will touch on a few in this article. We were shocked when we found the percentages of fillers in spice blends and even the products you think are just a single ground spice can be filled with coloring agents, fillers and more.
Why would a company add fillers? It gives them a better profit margin. If you are buying ground spices then you are probably eating all kinds of things that have been added to it. If you have found a cheap seasoning blend, there is a reason for it. And it isn't what I would call a good one. Whole unadulterated, organic spices and herbs are expensive. Start combining them in a spice blend and you can see how the cost can add up. So of course when big business is looking to put more money in their stockholders pockets the bottom line drives them to make the product for the least amount they can.
Some of the fillers include MSG, anti caking agents, flour, salts, other plants with similar leaves or berries, seeds, nuts, soy, corn starch and in some cases even saw dust. There are many different types of anti caking agents and flavor and color enhancers.
When you freshly grind a seasoning it has a beautiful vibrant color, it is very aromatic and as it ages you will will notice the vibrancy decreasing and it begins to lose its beautiful scent, which is why we fresh grind in small batches and as often as we do.
Many spice companies have learned that with this loss in vibrancy and fading of its color for old ground spices they can resolve it by adding a dye to them to hide the age of the product. These dyes can be toxic. They also add dyes to hide the fillers themselves so you don't see the difference from the ground spice and the filler they have added. Now this is deemed illegal in the US but much of the herbs and spices in products and on the shelves are not all grown in the US, plus there are very few regulators out there to enforce. In some countries these dyes are still being used, especially in spices. There are currently no published legal limits for these illegal food dyes, but any detectable amount is deemed unacceptable and potentially genotoxic and carcinogenic.
Sometimes you will see natural flavoring or coloring and artificial flavoring or coloring on your labels. The FDA defines natural flavoring compounds as 'incidental additives' because they do not affect or play a role in the actual flavor. This means companies are not required to disclose this category of ingredients to consumers. “Natural flavors” on the market can be naturally-occurring glutamate by-products—which is just another way of saying MSG. But there are 100's of natural flavorings used and as long as they are derrived from a plant, animal or living organisms. These chemical by-products are excitotoxins, a type of harmful chemical which tricks our brain into overeating while creating an addiction response. The other thing with natural flavors is they don't have to tell you how many or what they all are. There could be dozens in the product.
Once you go down the rabbit hole you start to understand the ramifications of the "cheap" spices.
We fresh grind, buy whole spices and source from US and trusted sources. We don't use "natural flavoring" or "coloring", there is no MSG, no anticaking agents, no fillers. There are some products that balance a blend by adding mineral rich himalayan sea salt, organic raw cane sugar, fair trade organic coffee and raw cacao. But you will never find these other ingredients in our blends. You deserve the best flavor profiles and healthy, nutritious ways of flavoring your favorite foods.
So what's in your cabinets and what spices and blends should you be throwing out?