Getting to the Root Cause of Contamination

Mint oils, like other agricultural products, are at risk for contamination. Increasing consumer awareness of the risks of phthalates and other contaminants drove the industry to look at mint oils with greater scrutiny.  Around 2014, mint oils imported from India were found to have significant levels of phthalates and metals such as Iron and Zinc.  This posed a challenge for the industry to identify the source(s) of the contaminants and identify a solution.  

The Essex team took an end-to-end approach to the problem, collaborating with our partners in India to evaluate the supply chain and find root-causes.  Essex spoke with suppliers, collectors, distillers, growers, and conducted field visits during harvest.  It quickly became clear that there were multiple risks, the greatest being that mint oils from individual growers were being stored in unsuitable containers that sometimes had been previously used for fuels, antifreeze, or agricultural products such as pesticides and herbicides.

To address this problem, Essex partnered with our suppliers and assisted with the procurement and distribution of suitable oil storage containers at the field level – given without cost to the grower and with no obligation to sell the oil to Essex suppliers.  In addition, we worked with a key supplier to install equipment capable of contamination analysis, and connected suppliers to qualified laboratories for assistance in calibrating their equipment and maintaining quality of analysis.  Essex also piloted redistillation techniques to remove contaminants, should they occur, and shared the methods with suppliers. 

The risk of contaminants is a challenge to everyone who works with mint oils, and opens a broader, complex subject involving ever-changing global regulations, authenticity, and the safety of our colleagues and consumers.  

What challenges are you facing with the quality of your mint oil supply? We can work with you to come up with solutions. 


Between 2014 and 2019, the phthalate contamination levels in Indian mint oils fell from several thousand ppm to under 10 ppm and have stayed low since.