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14.

Pepper Quality and Grades


14.1. Farm grades of Black Pepper and White Pepper

I t is desirable to have simple grade specifications for pepper, which are easy for
farmers to follow. As processors and exporters relate their purchase price to
quality specifications, farmers will be able to get a price equivalent to the quality
of their produce if the required grade specifications are met. Specifications at farm
level cannot compromise on basic quality, such as natural colour, form or shape,
and safety for human consumption, but the specifications may be a little more
liberal than the specifications for export as prescribed by the importing counties.
Before export, every pepper product is further cleaned, sorted, graded and
sometimes sterilized, depending on the requirements of importers.

India has prepared a set of grades for black pepper after conducting surveys of the
producing and marketing centres in the country. The grades are called Agmark
Grades and are specified under the Pepper Grading and Marking Rules of 1969.
There are two grades under the designation, Garbled Malabar Black Pepper and
four grades under the designation Ungarbled Malabar Black Pepper. There are
four grades under the designation Garbled Light Black Pepper, three under
Ungarbled Light Black pepper, two grades under Pin-heads, one grade under
Black Pepper Non-specified, three grades under Tellicherry Garbled Black Pepper
and two under Black Pepper Ground. Over 70% of the exports are of Malabar
Black Pepper Grade-1 (MG Grade 1). Table 28 gives the grade specifications of
MG Grade 1.

Table 28
Grade specification of Malabar Black Pepper Grade-1

Grade *Extraneous **Light berries Moisture


matter not not exceeding content not General characteristics
designation
exceeding (%) (%) exceeding (%)

MG Grade-1 0.5 2.0 11*** Shall be the dried mature berries of


Piper nigrum grown in South
India, garbled, dark brown to dark
black in colour, nearly globular
with a wrinkled surface, the
deepest wrinkles forming a
network on the dried berry. It shall
be free from mould or insect or
any other adulterant

* These comprise dust, chaff, pickings and other foreign matter. Pinheads will be regarded as extraneous
matter.
** Light berry contents to be tested by flotation method in alcohol or methylated spirit of specific gravity 0.80
to 0.82 at room temperature of 25o C.
*** During monsoon months i.e. from 15th May to 30th September, a tolerance of 0.5% is allowed in respect of
moisture.

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14. Pepper Quality and Grades

The grades under Tellicherry Garbled Black Pepper are mainly based on the
difference in diameter of the dried berries. Berries of the grade, Tellicherry
Garbled Special Extra Bold (TGSEB) have the largest size and are retained in a
sieve with holes 4.75 mm in diameter. This grade is the largest sized black pepper
in the international market.

Malaysia has prepared two farm grades namely, Special and FAQ for both black
pepper and white pepper with the help of the Pepper Marketing Board, Sarawak.
The details of these grades are given in Table 29.

Table 29
Farm Grade of Black and White pepper

Black Pepper White Pepper


Characteristic
Special FAQ Special FAQ

Bulk Density (BD) (g/l) 541 - 600 520 540 NA NA

Moisture (% max.) 14.5 15.0 15.0 16.0

Light Berries (% max.) 4.0 8.0 0.5 1.0

Extraneous matter (% max.) 1.5 3.0 0.25 0.5

Black Berries (% max) NA NA 1.0 2.0

Pepper should be free from animal excreta;


Pepper should be free from foreign matter of other than of pepper origin (i.e. stone,
metal pieces, etc);
Pepper should contain no short or long stems/stalks;
Pepper should not be mouldy; and
Pepper should not be infested with pests.
White pepper should have a generally ivory white or creamy white appearance.

The Pepper Marketing Board of Malaysia has set up a steam sterilization


treatment plant for pepper (Fig.80) for use by exporters.

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14. Pepper Quality and Grades

Fig. 80
A steam treatment plant at PMB Malaysia

In Sri Lanka, black pepper is graded as Grade 1, Special Grade 1, FAQ Grade and
Light berries. Light berries are those which float in a solution of alcohol and
water. Farmers are requested to maintain the following quality for black pepper.

Colour : Black or brownish black


Appearance : Solid, deeply set wrinkles on the surface
Cleanliness : Free of dead or live insects, rat droppings, mould, dirt, etc.

The Sri Lanka Standards Institution has prepared general quality specifications for
different grades of pepper (Table 30).

Table 30
Quality standards of different grades of pepper recommended by the
Sri Lanka Standard Institution

Quality indicator Special Grade 1 FAQ


Grade 1

1. Mouldy berries percentage 1% 1% 2%


2. Dirt (percentage by weight) 1% 1% 2%
3. Light berries percentage by weight 2% 4% 10%
4. Moisture percentage 12% 14% 14%

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14. Pepper Quality and Grades

For export, Sri Lanka has prepared two grades each for black pepper and white
pepper. These grades are as follows (Table 31).

Table 31
Quality standards of export black pepper and white pepper
adopted in Sri Lanka

Black Pepper White Pepper


Criteria
Special FAQ Special FAQ

Whole insect (dead or live) Each sample:< 2 & Each sample:< 2 &
total bulk: <5 total bulk: <5

Mammalian or other excreta Complete absence of excreta of


mammalian or others

Insect defiled berries: % in numbers 1% 1% 0 0

Mouldy berries: % in numbers 1% 1% 0 0

Extraneous matter: % in number 1% 2% 1% 2%

Light berries: % in numbers 2% 10% 1% 2%

Bulk Density: grams per liter 550 (g/l) 500 (g/l) 600 (g/l) -

Black / Grey berries: % in weights - - 1% 2%

14.2. IPC Grade Specifications

The European Union and a few countries such as USA and Japan have drawn up
their own specifications for import of both black pepper and white pepper but
there is lack of uniformity in the specifications prescribed by these importing
countries. The International Pepper Community (IPC), with the participation of
the member countries, has prepared a set of specifications for export of both black
pepper and white pepper. These specifications cover the physical characteristics of
the pepper, insect and microbial infestations, extraneous matter and mammalian
and / or other excreta. Based on these parameters, IPC has specified two grades
each for whole black pepper and whole white pepper. The grades and their
specifications are given in Table 32 (a) + (b).

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14. Pepper Quality and Grades

Table 32 (a)
Grades of whole pepper, black and white

Black Pepper (whole) White Pepper (whole)


Quality Parameter
IPC BP-1 IPC BP-2 IPC WP-1 IPC WP-2

Macro

1. Bulk Density 550 500 600 600


(g/l minimum)

2. Moisture 12 14 13 15
(% vol/weight, maximum)

3. Light Berries/Corns 2 10 1 2
(% by weight, maximum)

4. Extraneous Matter 1 2 1 2
(% by weight, maximum)

5. Black Berries/Corns Not applicable Not applicable 1 2


(% by weight, maximum)

6. Mouldy Berries/Corns 1 3 1 3
(% by weight, maximum)

7. Insect Defiled Berries/Corns 1 2 1 2


(% by weight, maximum)

8. Whole Insects, Dead Not more than 2 numbers in each Not more than 2 numbers in each
(by count, maximum) sub sample and not more than 5 sub sample and not more than 5
numbers in total sub-samples. numbers in total sub-samples.

Mammalian or/and Other Shall be free of any visible Shall be free of any visible
Excreta (by count, maximum) mammalian or/and other excreta. mammalian or/and other excreta.

Microbiological
1. Salmonella (detection / 25g) Negative Negative Negative Negative

NOTES:
(a). IPC BP-2 and IPC WP-2 are grades of pepper, which has been partially processed (i.e. has
gone through some basic cleaning processes like sieving and winnowing).

(b) IPC BP-1 and IPC WP-1 are grades for pepper, which has been further processed (i.e. has
gone through further cleaning processes including sieving, cycloning, destoning, washing
and mechanical drying).

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14. Pepper Quality and Grades

Table 32 (b)
IPC Grades of treated whole pepper, black and white

Black Pepper White Pepper


Quality Parameter
IPC BPT-1 IPC BPT-2 IPC WPT-1 IPC WPT-2

Macro
1. Bulk Density 550 500 600 600
(g/l, minimum)
2. Moisture 12 12 12 12
(% vol/weight, maximum)
3. Light Berries/Corns 2 10 1 2
(% by weight, maximum)
4. Extraneous Matter 1 2 1 2
(% by weight, maximum)
5. Black Berries/Corns Not applicable Not applicable 1 2
(% by weight, maximum)
6. Mouldy Berries/Corns Nil Nil Nil Nil
(% by weight, maximum)
7. Insect Defiled Berries/Corns 1 2 1 2
(% by weight, maximum)
8. Whole Insects, Dead Not more than 2 numbers in each Not more than 2 numbers in each
(by count, maximum) sub sample and not more than 5 sub sample and not more than 5
numbers in total of all sub-samples. numbers in total of all sub-samples.

9. Mammalian or/and Other Shall be free of any visible Shall be free of any visible
Excreta mammalian or/and other excreta. mammalian or/and other excreta.
(by count, maximum)
Microbiological

1. Aerobic Plate Count 5 x 104 5 x 104 5 x 104 5 x 104


(cfu/g, maximum)
2. Mould & Yeast 1 x 103 1 x 103 1 x 103 1 x 103
(cfu/g, maximum)
3. Escherichia coli <3 <3 <3 <3
(MPN/g)
4. Salmonella Negative Negative Negative Negative
(detection / 25g)

(a). IPC BPT-1 and IPC WPT-1 are grades for pepper, which has been processed i.e. pepper which has gone
through further cleaning processes including sieving, cycloning, destoning, washing and mechanical
drying, and has subsequently undergone an internationally accepted treatment process to reduce its
microbiological contamination.

(b) IPC BP-2 and IPC WP-2 are grades for pepper, which has been partially processed (i.e. pepper has gone
through basic cleaning processes like sieving and winnowing), and has subsequently undergone an
internationally accepted treatment process to reduce its microbiological contamination.

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14. Pepper Quality and Grades

(c) The treatment process shall be undertaken by qualified/trained personnel, in compliance with
internationally accepted standard operational procedures and regulations regarding the process.

(d) The treated pepper shall be packaged in suitable, clean and sterile packaging materials, clearly labeled to
indicate, inter alia, the treatment process as required by standard regulations, and appropriately handled
and stored in a clean & well-ventilated store to protect and maintain the integrity of the product for the
entire period of its intended shelf-life.

(e) Cfu = Colony-Forming Unit.

(f) MPN = Most Probable Number.

14.3. Test Methodologies and Procedures

IPC has identified specific methods for determining values for various parameters
that are required to determine the grades of pepper. These can be obtained from
IPC website (http://www.ipcnet.org).

14.4. Code of Hygienic Practice for Pepper and other Spices

IPC has drawn up a Code of Hygienic Practice for Pepper and other Spices for
use by processors, warehouse operators and manufactures of pepper and pepper
products. These can be obtained from IPC website (http://www.ipcnet.org).

14.5. Other Specifications

There a few other specifications introduced by the importing countries to ensure


that their consumers are protected from other health hazards in pepper products.
These include restrictions against aflatoxin, heavy metals and pesticides residues.
The fungi, Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus produce aflatoxins.
There are four types of aflatoxin namely, B1, B2, G1 and G2. As per the
specifications for the European Union, B1 alone should not exceed 5 parts per
billion (ppb) and all the four types together should not exceed 10 ppb. There is no
separate level prescribed for B1 for USA and Japan but the total should not exceed
20 ppb for USA and 15 ppb for Japan. Pesticide residues are observed sometimes
in pepper due to the unscrupulous use of chemicals during cultivation. The
commonly used pesticides are organochlorines, organophosphorates or
carbamates. Their residue levels should not exceed 2 to 5 parts per million (ppm)
depending on the toxicity. Presence of heavy metals, such as, iron, nickel,
chromium, cadmium, lead, copper, molybdenum, arsenic and mercury are also
unacceptable beyond prescribed levels. The main problem with these latter
contaminants is that they may be carcinogenic.

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