Initial Posting: 8/13/2016    Last Update: 6/16/2020
Question: There are many reports of lead contamination in turmeric spice. How can I make sure I'm not getting lead in my turmeric supplement or spice?
Answer: It is true that high concentrations of lead have been found and reported in some turmeric spices — including several reported in 2016 (See Recalls and Warnings). One reason is that lead chromate, a yellow pigment, is commonly added to poor quality turmeric powder in Bangladesh to enhance its appearance, allowing it to compete with the brighter turmeric from India. Testing of turmeric in Bangladesh revealed that, depending on the region, 11% to 26% of samples exceeded that country's lead limit, while samples from India did not (Forsyth, Environ Res 2019), although turmeric from both countries were recalled across the world between 2011 and 2017 (Cowell, Pub Health Rep 2017).
ConsumerLab.com's tests of turmeric supplements have revealed lead in some, although mainly those containing turmeric herb powder rather than turmeric extract (typically sold as "curcumin"). The situation in supplements has been improving over the years.
ConsumerLab.com has also tested popular brands of turmeric spice. Some have contained high amounts of filth (bug parts), but lead contamination has not been a problem in the selected products.