PESTICIDES: TEA TIME
A Canadian study in 2014 showed that most mass-produced teas in Canada contain pesticide residues, sometimes very numerous.
Being myself a regular tea drinker for many years, I could not be insensitive.
Being a farmer myself and producer of peaches and nectarines in conventional farming, I am used to handling pesticides and residue analysis, so I am particularly sensitive.
The article has a table with all its results, but without legal reference, I decided to check how these results are, compared to standards in Canada and Europe (whereas the tea situation in Europe is probably similar).
Here is the result of my personal research.
You can go check the Canadian standards on the page http://pr-rp.hc-sc.gc.ca/mrl-lrm/index-eng.php
You can also go check the results on the European specific page http://ec.europa.eu/food/plant/pesticides/eu-pesticides-database/public/?event=pesticide.residue.CurrentMRL&language=EN
In this table, I took the liberty to indicate the determination limit for molecules that are not allowed on tea, and for molecules that don't appear in the list.
Note that the European legislation considers that any unauthorized product on a crop is prohibited. Yet a minimum residue level is tolerated at the limit of determination (that is to say at the lowest level that you can say with certainty what molecule it is) to cover cases of import, because these molecules can be allowed in non-EU countries.
By cons, regarding the products that don't appear in the lists, their residue, even at trace (that is to say below the determination limit) is prohibited.
Having found no information on Canadian law regarding the molecules that the thresholds are not fixed or that don't appear in lists, I used the same criteria.
Lo and behold, the article is completely right. It is sure, in view of these measures, that presented teas should be outlawed in Canada and even more in Europe.
This is a very surprising result, when, as in my case, one is used to working constantly with ever-increasing standards, increasingly stringent and ever more controlled.
I personally draw a few lessons, or more precisely some unpleasant thoughts:
Tea manufacturers seem to disregard the theoretical obligation to respect regulations of both the countries of origin of the product and the country of destination.
This obligation is controlled for fresh products, and it is a daily concern for farmers, at least those I meet regularly, European farmers.
The number and severity of the standards in Europe is partly responsible for the serious crisis that is living its agriculture.
Administrations responsible for enforcing standards, appear to have serious gaps in imported products control procedures. These teas should never have been put on sale.
Be aware that in Europe, a product whose residues exceed the standards is not even allowed to travel on the road. In other words, a farmer whose production exceeds the standards can’t send it from his farm to the place where they must be prepared for shipment and sale. They are considered contaminated and should be supported by a company specializing in treating toxic waste.
I don't think there is a health risk with these teas, but if there is a law, it must be respected by all. Otherwise it is useless.
How is it possible that not conform teas of known brands have been able to pass all control steps unmolested, and end up being normally consumed?
What then are all these standards overburdening Western farmers, if imported products are not subject to the same rules?
It is also very surprising that some teas have many residues none of which is stated in Canadian law.
I also do an observation that comes only reinforcing my opinion, I already talked about it and repeated several times: whatever can say certain groups to opaque objectives, European agriculture is the most friendly in the world, and therefore the healthiest. There remains room for improvement? Undoubtedly, and it's gradually done, day after day.
But perhaps it would be good to stop demonize European agriculture, what are bent on making the media in recent years, while if there are serious problems, they probably come mainly from imports.
Referring to European legislation, only two teas would be consistent and therefore marketable, that is to say, teas that have no residues whose percentage exceeds 100% of the standards.
I don't know tea growing, and I don't know its phytosanitary problems. Still, I am very surprised that the same sample can contain more than 10 pesticides. I see three possible explanations: either the production region is particularly sensitive to many pest problems, or the farmer does not take the most elementary precautions in the use of pesticides, or this tea is the result of a blend of teas of various origins, resulting in a mixture of pesticides.
Looking at the most charged in residue tea, with a technical look, one realizes that the only plausible explanation is that they are mixtures. Indeed I find no valid technical justification, even without knowing the crop, to explain the presence, in the same sample, of several pyrethroids (bifenthrin, cypermethrin, deltamethrin, fenpropathrin, lambda-cyhalothrin), several neonicotinoids (acetamiprid, imidacloprid, thiacloprid, thiametoxam) or several miticides (clofentezin, dicofol, pyridaben, fenazaquin, fenpyroximate, hexithiazox, propargite).
But it is unbelievable that we can arrive at such a situation in ordinary consumer products.
One can also legitimately wonder, looking at the differences of approval of pesticides for a single product such as tea, if it can't represent a problem in relation of the free trade agreement CETA, recently signed between the European Union and Canada.
That said, and given the worrying results of this investigation, perhaps it would be interesting that the same kind of work is done here in Europe.
The European food production is extremely controlled. This is a problem for farmers, but it is a common good.
Perhaps the European Union should take the necessary precautions for its own agriculture should not be further penalized by imports of non-EU products which don't respect its laws.
It would have the double advantage of protecting its own agriculture, while ensuring that consumer surveys can't detect serious flaws in the sanitary control systems.
It would gain in both agriculture and institutions credibility.