Sun, Oct 07, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Watchdog warns on toxic teas

STORM IN A TEACUP:Some herbal infusions were found to contain harmful, cancer-causing substances, a safety examination by a consumer group has recently found

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

A staff member of the Consumers’ Foundation prepares herbal tea during a press conference in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times

Safety examinations on 20 kinds of herbal teas showed that nine kinds of chrysanthemum drinks contained pesticide residue, with eight of them exceeding regulated safety limits, the Consumers’ Foundation said yesterday, urging consumers not to drink the first infusion of tea.

The foundation purchased 20 kinds of herbal teas, including nine chrysanthemum teas, three rose teas, three lavender teas, two chamomile teas and three herb teas with dried berries, from various stores in Taipei City and New Taipei City (新北市) and had them tested for heavy metal, sulfur dioxide and pesticide residues in July.

Although the tests found levels of sulfur dioxide and heavy metal substances — such as cadmium and lead — in the 20 kinds of herbal tea were untraceable or within regulated safety limits, half of the herbal teas did contain pesticide residues.

“Ten teas were found to contain pesticide residues and the majority [nine kinds] of those teas were chrysanthemum tea,” the foundation’s vice chairman Mark Chang (張智剛) said, adding that “several kinds of pesticides were found, with some chrysanthemum teas containing up to six or seven kinds of pesticides.”

A total of 18 kinds of pesticide residues were found, including carbendazim, dimethomorph and imidacloprid, which are often used on food products, the foundation said, adding that difenoconazole and flusiconazole, which are prohibited on spice and other herbal plants, were also found.

A mix of pesticides is commonly found in tests, but the mixture of different pesticides in the human body may cause a “cocktail effect,” meaning that substances become more difficult to eliminate from the body when they are mixed together, the foundation said, adding that some of the combinations of pesticides are even carcinogenic.

Local governmental health divisions should come up with a better method of monitoring pesticide use and the government should establish product certification and traceability mechanisms to ensure food safety, Chang said.

The foundation also urged consumers to avoid herb teas with unclear product labels and to pour away the first infusion of brewed tea to reduce the intake of pesticide residues.

“No matter if you brew the tea with hot water or cold water, pour away the first infusion,” National Taiwan University professor of horticulture and Consumers’ Foundation committee member Cheng Cheng-yung (鄭正勇) said. “If it contains pesticide, the first infusion will contain most of it.”

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