The Consumer Protection Committee yesterday said that 11 of 30 herbal tea ingredients (about 37 percent) it tested for pesticide residue failed a random inspection.
Herbal tea made with a single type of herb or a mixture of various herbs is a popular beverage in Taiwan, especially in the summer, and while some people like to buy ready-made tea from beverage stores or in bottles, some enjoy choosing dried ingredients and brewing their own tea.
Consumer ombudsmen and local health department officials conducted a random inspection of four common herbal tea ingredients — Chinese mesona (仙草), beggarticks (咸豐草), Wedelia (蟛蜞菊) and Glossogyne tenuifolia (風茹草) — from herbal tea shops, Chinese medicine stores and herbal tea factories in July.
Pesticide residue analysis and a test for dithiocarbamates, a type of fungicide, showed that 11 of the 30 items tested contained pesticide residues above the allowed tolerance level.
All six of the Wedelia items tested failed the inspection, while the only Glossogyne tenuifolia item to be tested also failed the inspection by containing six types of pesticide residue that exceeded the allowed tolerance level.
Two of the 15 Chinese mesona teas and two of the eight beggarticks teas tested also failed the inspection.
Food and Drug Administration Northern Center official Wei Jen-ting (魏任廷) said the pesticides found in the herbal tea ingredients were all legal, but the residue levels were too high.
The committee said that it has asked local health departments to investigate the origins of the herbal tea ingredients and so far one company has been fined NT$60,000 for contravening the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation (食品安全衛生管理法).
Eight cases have been transferred to local agricultural departments to investigate the use of pesticides and two cases are still being investigated by local health departments, it said.
If it is proved that farmers have used illegal pesticides they face a fine of NT$15,000 to NT$150,000 for violation of the Agro-pesticides Management Act (農藥管理法).
Senior consumer ombudsman Wang Te-ming (王德明) urged people not to pick wild herbs, especially along public roads, because township and district offices spray pesticide regularly to maintain environmental sanitation.
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