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Greenpeace study finds high dose of pesticides in tea

New Delhi, Aug 11, 2014, DHNS: 1:35 IST

Almost 60 pc of popular tea samples contained at least one pesticide

Several popular Indian tea brands are laced with high dose of pesticides in violation of the regulatory norms, a Greenpeace study has found. DH photo
Several popular Indian tea brands are laced with high dose of pesticides in violation of the regulatory norms, a Greenpeace study has found.

Almost 60 per cent of the samples – 29 out of the 49 branded and packaged tea – contain at least one pesticide, way above the safety limits set by the European Union. In 18 samples, quantity of pesticides is 50 per cent more than the maximum residue level.

One sample of Brooke Bond Red label contained 20 pesticides, while another sample of Goodrick Chai was contaminated with 19 of these chemicals. The brands that were tested include Brooke Bond, Golden Tips, Goodricke, Lipton, Tata Tea, Tetley and Twinings.

The manufacturers include Hindustan Unilever Limited, Tata Global Beverages Limited, Wagh Bakri Tea, Goodricke Tea, Twinings, Golden Tips, Kho-Cha and Girnar. Unilever and Tata account for almost 54 per cent of the produce available in the market.

The samples were purchased randomly from retail outlets in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore between July 2013 and May 2014.

They cover eight of the top 11 tea brands dominating the branded tea market in India, which is the world's second largest producer of tea. A European laboratory screened the samples for 350 pesticides. While 46 brands – 94 per cent of the samples – contained at least one of the 34 pesticides, as many as 29 samples had a mixture of 10 pesticides.
“The results show presence of pesticides classified as highly hazardous (Class 1b) and moderately hazardous (Class 2), as per the World Health Organisation,” says the Greenpeace study which was released on Monday.

Surprisingly, a large number of samples (67 per cent) tested positive for DDT though it is no longer registered for farm use since 1989.

Many tea samples tested positive for monocrotophos, a highly hazardous organophospohorous pesticide. Another banned pest control agent Endosulfan was detected in four samples.

As of May 2014, a total 248 chemical pesticides have been registered by the Central Insecticide Board and Registration Committee for use in India as per the Insecticide Act, 1968, for all crops. The list contains Endosulfan that has been subject to a separate comprehensive ban by the court.

The multiplicity of authorities with overlapping roles in regulating pesticides adds to the problem. Besides the CIBRC, pesticides are also regulated by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India under the health ministry.

After registration, pesticides can be recommended by the state Agricultural Universities and other boards and research institutions like Tea Board and Tea Research Association.
Responding to the Greenpeace study, Unilever said it would initiate a study by the UK-based Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux International on the existing practices of crop protection and their limitation in India with cooperation from the Tea Board.

Tata Global Beverages said it would ask its suppliers to stop using all hazardous pesticides. Both the companies claimed to achieve 100 per cent sustainable tea cultivation by 2020.

Tea Board reacts

Contradicting the claims made by Greenpeace, the Tea Board of India on Monday said Indian packaged and branded teas are safe and follow stringent standards.

All the samples, tested by Greenpeace for the study, comply with Indian laws and regulations, designed to protect consumers, the board said in a statement. The board says it will put “all factual information” on its website.

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