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Lead in Turmeric & Curcumin

Reviewed and edited by Tod Cooperman, M.D. Tod Cooperman, M.D.
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?
Lead Contamination in Turmeric Spice & Supplements -- Spoonful of turmeric spice and turmeric pills
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.

You can check ConsumerLab.com's latest product tests (including levels of beneficial curcuminoid compounds in supplements) in the Turmeric and Curcumin Supplements and Spices Review >> 


Learn More About Turmeric & Curcumin



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See other recent and popular questions >>
COMMENTS

Frantz20128   June 4, 2020
There are a few DIY tests on internet to help detect turmeric adulteration. One of them is the "water test". Others use hydrochloric acid. Are these tests any good?

ConsumerLab.com   June 16, 2020
If a dye has been added to turmeric, putting the turmeric in a glass of water (the "water test") may allow the dye to separate from the turmeric powder which will generally sink to the bottom of the glass (some may float near the top). The water test may not be appropriate for extracts because some products contain emulsifiers and other additives to solubilize the extract in water (so that it neither sinks nor floats).

The "acid test" (such as mixing turmeric in lemon juice) is proposed as a way to determine if a dye known as metanil yellow (or Matalan), has been added to turmeric because acid doesn't change the yellow color of turmeric but it will turn change metanil yellow to pink.

However, unlike the laboratory tests that ConsumerLab conducts, neither of these tests will tell you how much of an adulterant (or heavy metal, such as lead) is present, nor amounts of curcumin or total curcuminoids.

Doug16331   January 2, 2018
Can you explain why "Tests for lead, cadmium, and arseni contamination performed only on products containing whole herb and/or at least 250mg of minerals per daily serving"? Since curcumin are all obtained from India, I think there is high risk for contamination. Thanks.

ConsumerLab.com   January 3, 2018
Hi Doug - There are many potential contaminants, but to be most efficient, we focus on areas in which contamination is most likely. Heavy metal contamination is most common with whole herbs (which includes herb powders), as opposed extracts, since the extraction process typically removes metals. In addition, a significant amount of metal contamination would be unlikely in a serving of less that 1/4 of a gram (250 mg) of whole herb -- which is about 1/4 of a typical capsule.

Dennis 13880   March 31, 2017
I saw a Dr. Oz segment regarding undercover purchases of different items. The proprietors were unaware of the source of the product. I wonder if Consumer Labs could test some of the off brand products of turmeric because those are the most affordable. Is that possible? Is Consumer Labs doing that now?

ConsumerLab.com   March 31, 2017
Hi Dennis - Yes, we purchase both name brand and store-brand (if that's what you mean by off-brand) products, and we purchase these just as a consumer would, from health food stores, pharmacies, supermarkets, healthcare provider offices, directing marketing channels, etc. We will soon be posting our latest tests and reviews of turmeric/curcumin supplements. When available it will be announced in our newsletter and posted on our homepage.


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This CL Answer initially posted on 8/13/2016. Last updated 6/16/2020.
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