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TRA refutes claim, says tea is safe

- Greenpeace report negated

Jorhat, Aug. 19: The Tea Research Association (TRA) today said Indian tea is perfectly safe for consumption and there is no health hazard whatsoever from the most sought-after drink in the country.

T.P. Rajendran, chairman of TRA’s scientific advisory committee, was reacting to a Greenpeace India report alleging high level of pesticides used in packaged tea. He said no pesticide, which is recommended by TRA for pest suppression in tea, can survive the harsh process of the leaves being turned to tea that is marketed for consumption.

The retired additional director-general of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research said TRA has been recommending pesticides only approved by the Central Insecticides Board and it has been following the stringent, statutory guidelines on the maximum residual limit fixed in the country by regulatory bodies.

Greenpeace India recently released a report, Trouble Brewing, on the level of pesticides in the tea sold by leading national and international brands in India.

The report said the tea sold by the top tea brands in India contained chemicals deemed moderately and highly hazardous by the World Health Organisation. These brands included Hindustan Unilever, Tata Global Beverages, Wagh Bakri Tea, Goodricke Tea, Twinings, Golden Tips, Kho-Cha and Girnar.

Rajendran, who was at the Tocklai Tea Research Institute here today, said chemicals were necessary to control pests in tea bushes but the impact of such chemicals, was almost nil on the tea produced. “The impact, if any, of such chemicals are also reduced when the final brew is prepared. We don’t consume the tea directly. We boil it and the impact of these chemicals is totally removed. Tea made in the country is safe as any other food item,” he said.

He said even toothpaste contains highly toxic chemicals but the effect of such chemicals has been negated by the use of technology. “No technology is risk free but risk-proof,” he said.

The director of India’s Tea Board, M. Muraleedharan, said the climatic conditions of tea growing regions in India are vulnerable to attacks by a large number of insects, pests, diseases and weeds. To control these pests and diseases the use of chemicals are necessary. “But the effect of these chemicals fades away in the long process of making tea. In most cases, the effect is reduced many-fold as the tea bush is exposed to sunlight and rain. The tea leaf also goes through high temperatures in the making process and the effect of these chemicals are totally removed,” he said.

Muraleedharan said TRA has also been working on non-chemical pest management approaches like use of botanicals and microbials. However, since the cost of making tea by such processes was very high it was not viable to produce tea commercially with such practices, unless the entire tea is exported. “Use of chemicals is a must for commercial production of tea to control pests,” he said.

TRA chairman D.P. Maheshwari said it has been scientifically proven that the presence of pesticides in the Indian tea brew is totally insignificant and has no health hazards.

Apart from Rajendran, Muraleedharan and Maheshwari, TRA secretary J. Phukan, TRA chief scientist A. K. Barooah and principal scientist B. Borthakur were present at the interaction with the media.