Pesticides in Indian tea, says Greenpeace; Tea Board denies

New Delhi (IANS): Leading national and global brands of tea sold in India contain pesticides, Greenpeace India said Monday. The Tea Board of India refuted the allegation, saying Indian teas were “totally safe” and meet high standards.

“Indian tea is a national pride and it should not be the one linked to toxic chemicals with serious environmental and health risks. All stakeholders in the tea industry should come forward and take steps to safeguard the reputation of our national drink,” said Neha Saigal, senior campaigner for Greenpeace India.

The Tea Board of India later said in a statement: “… having reviewed the findings of the Greenpeace study, (we) can confirm that all the samples tested comply with the Indian laws and regulations, designed to protect consumers. Indian teas are well regarded the world over and are totally safe following stringent standards.”

Between June 2013 and May 2014, Greenpeace India said it tested samples of 49 branded packaged teas from eight of the top 11 companies that dominate the branded tea market in India and which also export to countries like Russia, Britain, the US, the UAE and Iran.

Greenpeace said a large number of the samples “tested positive for a cocktail of toxic pesticides”.

“DDT was present in almost 67 percent of the tea samples even though it is no longer registered for use in agriculture in India and was banned in such applications as long ago as 1989.”

The Tea Board of India said it “would like to dispel any misconceptions about Indian tea in the eyes of consumers at large”.

“The Indian tea industry led by the Tea Board of India has been constantly taking steps to make tea cultivation even more sustainable and reduce reliance on synthetic plant protection products to ensure that Indian tea continues to meet the high standards consumers expect.”

The steps include the launch of an initiative that will have certified at least 50 million kg of tea by December 2014 and the development of a “plant protection code” to aid best practice in tea cultivation.

The Tea Board of India said it was open to collaborating with all stakeholders to help make tea production more sustainable in the long run.