Because of a widely disseminated post on the Care2 blog this month, the question of pesticides in tea has been a hot one among tea buyers. For the past year, similar stories have cropped up online claiming dangerous levels of pesticides in a number of commercial brands. The geneses of many of these articles were reports released by Glaucus Research last year regarding Celestial Seasonings and Teavana. Concerned bloggers penned emotional posts in response, making sweeping statements about tea’s safety, often without additional investigation or even links to the original reports.
Readers of the blog expressed concerns: “The information given is misleading,” responded Maria A. “I doubt that your story is based on factual sources. Care2 please validate your sources before spreading information,” wrote Jan. T. “All this makes my life so complicated…” wrote Wisteria K.
The pesticide question is an essential one; however, the source of the original reports must be recognized. Glaucus Research is a “short seller,” meaning that they stood to gain financially if Teavana and Celestial Seasonings lost money. The Teavana report notes “We are short Teavana and therefore stand to realize significant gains in the event that the price of stock declines. We do not express any opinion as to whether any of the food products discussed herein are safe for human consumption. Laboratory test results…are not intended to form the basis for any scientific conclusions or any claims regarding the health effects of the tested products.”
Both Teavana and Celestial Seasonings responded to the claims immediately. Celestial Seasonings addressed the concerns on their website stating, “We sent the same teas highlighted in the report for testing to the National Food Lab (NFL), an accredited industry-leading third-party lab with decades of experience designing and executing food safety programs. NFL’s independent testing reaffirmed that Celestial Seasonings teas are safe and follow strict industry guidelines. In addition, NFL detected no pesticides in the brewed Celestial Seasonings teas they tested.”
This is not to suggest that pesticides are not a concern for tea drinkers and sellers. Retailers should be prepared to speak to the sources and growing conditions of the teas they sell and, if appropriate, the realities of pesticide use. Shocking stories will always spread quickly online so retailers must prepare themselves to respond with clear, well-informed responses.