Inspect tea processing units: FSSAI to state officials

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Food safety regulator FSSAI has asked the state-level enforcement authorities to carry out inspection at various tea processing units to check adulteration of iron fillings in the beverage.

The regulator has recently conducted a large-scale laboratory analysis of tea powder for determining the limit on iron filling.

After finding wide variations in the test results, the FSSAI said that until method of assessment for iron fillings is finalised, the state food safety officials can carry out inspections at the factories.

“Until the method of assessment is finalised, the enforcement authorities may carry out inspection in tea factories rather than on retail outlets, etc. to ensure that Food Business Operators (FBOs) involved in the processing/ manufacture of tea operate with the requisite equipment for removal of iron fillings,” FSSAI said in the notification.

Earlier, the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had capped the maximum limit for iron particles in tea powder at 150 mg per kilogram.

In many cases, it has been found that the tea powder is contaminated with iron filings. Iron fillings enter tea due to wear and tear of the processing machinery.

The continuous presence of iron filings in tea has raised safety concerns and there have been many demands to fix an upper limit.

The tea leaves are dried in a sieve fitted with a mesh and leaves are cut using iron rollers. Factories use huge magnets to remove iron filings from tea powder.

The tea production in India, the world’s second largest tea producer, stood at 1,213 mn kg in 2015-16.

The country’s overall shipments of tea rose 10 per cent to Rs 4,200 crore in 2015-16 from Rs 3,824 crore in the previous fiscal.