Chinese Tea Companies Defend Products as Safe

BEIJING, China

Several tea companies whose packaged products contained pesticide residue in tests conducted on behalf of Greenpeace contend that levels are well within safe limits.

Weng Kun, general secretary of National Tea Standardization Technical Committee, told China Daily that the report issued by the green group “is teeming with misguided and lop-sided information.” The majority of pesticides are only slightly soluble in water,” he said. “It is safe to drink tea if the residues are kept under par,” Kun explained.

The Beijing Times reported that several enterprises defended their tea products, assuring consumers the teas measure up to national standards. The China Tea Association’s general secretary Wu Xiduan said “it is wrong to equate tea containing pesticides with unsafeness.” The presence of residual pesticides is worlds apart from discovering excessive pesticides, he said.

In December and January Greenpeace took samples from nine well-known tea companies, purchasing 18 different kinds of medium-grade tea, all popular with consumers. These were tested by an accredited third-party laboratory which found traces of several banned pesticides including methomyl, endosulphan, and fenvalerate. All of the tea samples contained a variety of pesticides, 29 different pesticides in all.

“Six of the samples contained more than 10 different kinds of pesticides,” according to Greenpeace and one brand of tea contained residue from 17 different kinds of pesticides. Samples included green tea, oolong tea and jasmine tea.

"Our tea fields have stopped using pesticides like methomyl," said directors of Wuyutai and Zhangyiyuan, two of the tea producers named in the Greenpeace findings, "but ‘no use’ does not amount to ‘zero existence’ as long as the residues meet the state requirements."

Tenfu’s Tea, a third producer having entered the Hong Kong market, has received no warning from the regulator about its tea quality, according to a company circular Thursday.
The tea association has commissioned experts to conduct a thorough safety assessment of the tea sold in the market, he added.

In April 2011, the central government mandated maximum residues on 54 pesticides, including methomyl and endosulfan, which are banned chemicals in tea growing.

Greenpeace said “it is the responsibility of the tea companies to ensure the quality of their tea for their consumers, and the most fundamental aspect of a tea’s quality must undoubtedly be whether it is safe to drink. The discovery of harmful and banned pesticides on the tested teas shows that some well-known tea companies are ignoring national laws and either turning a blind eye or being complicit with their suppliers’ illegal conduct. It shows a complete lack of corporate responsibilities to ensure their product don’t harm the environment. The companies clearly fail to have an effective traceability and supply chain control system in place to stop massive use of pesticides, ensure the tea is at least produced in line with national law and standards, and prevent the use of banned pesticides,” Greenpeace concluded.

Click here to download complete report with test results.

The international environmental group is seeking “a drastic reduction in pesticide application” and advocates “effective traceability and supply chain control systems that ensure compliance with use reduction and the law by preventing the use of banned pesticides.”

Sources: Greepeace, Beijing Daily, China Daily 

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