Author: Directors of Tea Leaves Date Posted:1 May 2019
A survey conducted by French consumer magazine "60 Million Consumers", examined 26 tea brands, including popular brands such as Lipton and Kusmi Tea and findings revealed certain teas contained up to 17 different types of pesticides.
This report on teas sold in France, brought on immediate media reaction and inspired a broader examination of pesticide levels in the tea industry; both can signal harmful effects.
Australian requirement for Maximum Residue Levels (MRL) of pesticides are among the highest world testing standard.
The use of pesticides is a decision by individual farmers and enforcement is difficult.
Pesticides are a universal problem. The term "pesticides" includes fungicides, rodenticides, bactericides, repellents, and antimicrobials. For tea, insects are the main concern.
The dangers of pesticides are augmented by widespread overapplication, which depletes soil and degrades the environment, along with unmanaged spraying that leads to severe health problems in tea growing communities.
As with DDT, some pesticides have generated dangerous impacts: carcinogens, neurological damage and decimation of species and fauna.
For many decades, there was a surge in uncontrolled and underregulated chemical overuse of both pesticides and fertilizers, most notably in China and India. This is being brought under some degree of control.
Evidence indicates the elite tea industry players are ahead of the problem. There is an accelerating and impressive push among the global tea merchants to adopt supply chain transparency, authentication, certification and supplier accountability.
Quality assurance programs are applying sophisticated technology and strong controls.
The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) sets the Maximum Residue Level (MRL) of pesticides at or about the limit of analytical determination.
The limit of analytical quantitation (LOQ) and hence the MRL, is generally expected to be at the level of 0.05 mg/kg.
The Food Standard Australia & New Zealand (FSANZ) adopt this APVMA standard in their Food Standard Code.
This compares with the European Union MRL 0.01mg/kg, Japan MRL 30 and USA MRL 50.
MRLs are trade rules not direct safety measures. There is no one MRL, and there is no systematic methodology for setting them. They are pragmatic and determined by regulators and import authorities in individual nations. MRLs really stand for “tolerance level” and are very much a judgement call. Every major importing regime builds in an often-large safety factor.
As a tea importer into Australia, Tea Leaves must comply with strict biosecurity requirements and the Food Standards Code of the FSANZ. Tea Leaves is responsible for ensuring that all tea and herbs we import complies with the relevant standards in the Code.
Under the Code, tea is a Surveillance Food; low risk – this category is considered to pose a low risk to public health and safety. Foods in this category are normally inspected at a lower rate than risk-categorised food. However, this inspection rate is increased if a Surveillance Food fails inspection.