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Factbox-Who are the two iconic Indian spice brands under scrutiny?

FILE PHOTO: A man adjusts the spice boxes of MDH and Everest on the shelf of a shop at a market in New Delhi

(Reuters) - For decades, India's spice makers MDH and Everest have been ubiquitous in kitchens around the world with their products being essential ingredients in chicken and fish curries and vegetable dishes.

A Hong Kong sales ban on some of their products after a cancer-causing pesticide was found has triggered a wave of scrutiny, including in the United States, the Maldives, India and Australia. Both brands say their products are safe.

Here are some facts and background on the two brands:

"MAHASHIAN DI HATTI", POPULARLY KNOWN AS MDH

* New Delhi-based MDH started in 1919 and is a family-run business.

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* It rose to popularity with ads and packaging featuring its founder Dharampal Gulati who sported a handlebar moustache and a turban. Gulati, often dubbed as India's "Spice King", died in 2020.

* MDH's website says it has 62 products. It deals in grounded spices, as well as spice blends which were created after "decades of research".

* MDH has five factories and its products are sold in India and markets such as Australia, the United States, Europe, Canada and the United Kingdom through a network of more than 400,000 retail dealers.

* MDH's revenue for 2022-2023 stood at $260 million.

EVEREST

* Everest Food Products started in 1967 with three products. Its founder Vadilal Bhai Shah started his business from a small 200 square feet spice shop.

* With 52 products, Everest today has global presence in around 80 countries, including in North America, Europe, the Middle East, the Asia Pacific and Africa.

* Some 20 million households use Everest products every day and 3.7 billion packs of its products are sold each year, according to its website. Around 620,000 outlets sell Everest products in 1,000 small towns and cities of India.

* India's Bollywood stars Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan are Everest brand ambassadors, appearing together in many TV commercials to promote its products, especially those to make the famous rice dish, biryani.

* Everest's net sales for 2022-23 stood at $365 million.

(Reporting by Rishika Sadam; Editing by Aditya Kalra and Jacqueline Wong)