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2009-2010 Pesticide Residues and Metals in Dried Tea


The Food Safety Action Plan (FSAP) aims to modernize and enhance Canada's food safety system. As a part of the FSAP enhanced surveillance initiative, targeted surveys are used to test various foods for specific hazards.

There were multiple objectives established for this targeted survey. The first was to provide an initial baseline of surveillance data for the levels of pesticide residues and metals in dried teas available to consumers (i.e., imported and domestically blended). Secondly, to provide the data necessary for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Calgary Laboratory to validate a new liquid-chromatography mass-spectrometry analytical method for the detection of pesticide residues in dried tea leaves.

Currently federally registered agricultural commodities are monitored by the CFIA under the National Chemical Residue Monitoring Program (NCRMP). The 2009-2010 Pesticide Residues and Metals Survey targeted dried tea, which is not traditionally tested under the CFIA core activities. In total, 100 dried tea samples (24 black, 41 green, 12 herbal/blends, 13 oolong and 10 white teas) were collected from retail stores.

The 100 dried tea samples collected, consisting of loose dried leaves and bagged teas, were analysed for over 340 different pesticide residues and 18 different metals. Thirty-one percent of the samples collected contained no detectable pesticide residues. Of the remaining 69 samples containing detectable pesticide residues, 41 samples contained at least one pesticide residue in violation of the 0.1 ppm General MRL. Oolong tea contained the highest number of pesticide residue violations at 92% of the samples collected (12 out of 13) followed by herbal/blends at 58% (7 out of 12), green tea at 44% (18 out of 41), white tea at 20% (2 out of 10) and black tea at 8% (2 out of 24) of the samples collected per specific tea type. All violations were assessed and appropriate follow-up action was pursued. Exposure to these pesticide residues in tea is not expected to pose a human health concern to consumers given the consumption of tea relative to other food commodities. The overall compliance rate of this targeted survey was 59%.

Of the 18 metals analysed, all metals except beryllium, were detected in all dried tea samples. The levels of metals found in this targeted survey were comparable to the observed levels in dried tea found in the published literature. It should be noted that brewed tea was not analysed in this survey. The results should only be interpreted as dried tea available as sold, and not brewed tea as consumed.

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