Attracted by the dark, strong-looking tea being sold at your roadside stall? Well, sip with caution – you could be ingesting harmful chemicals which may even be carcinogenic.

Random testing carried out over the past five years revealed that a significant number of samples of the brew from roadside stalls were spiked with chemicals to impart a ‘feel good’ sensation.

In 2015-2016 alone, out of the 67 tea samples studied, 36 were up to standards, but 31 failed to meet the parameters. Of these, 10 were declared unsafe, 20 were deemed substandard and one was found to be mis-labelled.

A powerful lobby seems to be at work in Tamil Nadu to push roadside vendors to use spurious tea. Cases have been filed against some merchants caught supplying adulterated tea powder, not only in the State capital but also to other districts like Coimbatore and Salem.

Most of the adulterants are dyes like sunset yellow, carmoise and tartrazine, which have specified permissible levels for daily consumption. As a rule of thumb, if the brew is very dark, it is very likely to contain additives.

“Indians are addicted to strong tea, so these tea merchants make quick money”, according to Consumers Association of India (CAI). Stressing the need for creating awareness, CAI suggested that people can test brews for themselves using tea-testing kits which are available, instead of waiting for the Government to take action.

The CAI has filed a case against a Chennai-based tea firm along with the Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies Corporation. The final hearing is scheduled to come up at the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission within a few months.

Suspicious brews can be reported and complaints registered by calling 044-2381 3095 or sending a mail to [email protected]


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