Fri, Jan 08, 2010 - Page 4 News List

Control Yuan upset over imports of blended tea

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

The nation’s top watchdog body on Wednesday said that some local tea brands are laced with imported leaves and sold as Taiwanese tea.

Following an investigation, the Control Yuan also censured two government agencies — the Department of Health (DOH) and the Council of Agriculture (COA) — for lax regulations on pesticide residue in tea.

Control Yuan member Cheng Jen-hung (程仁宏) said that sellers have not been asked to refrain from blending local tea with imported tea, but added that “they should at least follow the practice used for labeling rice, including clear labeling of the blend ratio and the origin of the leaves.”

He asked the DOH and COA to come up with corrective measures within two months and to start monitoring tea by the Lunar New Year, which falls on Feb. 14.

Cheng said that Taiwan imports around 25,000 tonnes of tea every year, 74 percent of which comes from Vietnam.

Cheng said if the imported tea ends up blended with local tea and is sold as a Taiwanese product, this is “unreasonable” and “hurts the interests of consumers.”

He said that although Taiwan imports 19,000 tonnes of tea from Vietnam every year, there is no tea labeled as Vietnamese on the local market.

The DOH and the COA are also lax in testing and examining for pesticide residue, Cheng said, advising consumers to throw away the water from the first pot of fresh tea to avoid ingesting pesticide residue.

Yang Mei-lin (楊美鈴), another Control Yuan member, said Taiwanese tea has to undergo rigorous customs clearance procedures when it is exported to Japan. In comparison, Taiwan’s inspections for imported tea are lax.

Upon learning of the Control Yuan’s correction, the DOH said it would study the criteria for ­pesticide residue and origin and blend-ratio labeling.

Kang Jaw-jou (康照洲), director-general of the DOH Food and Drug Administration, said that although there are pesticide residue standards and information is available for shoppers, it is not certified by the administration and random testing is not conducted. However, the administration would implement a testing regime, he said.

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