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Tea Board warns against use of artificial colours
Ajit Patowary

 
 TEA BOARD OF INDIA, the regulatory body of the country’s tea industry, has warned that failure to abide by the guidelines of the Food and Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) for not using any colour in tea may attract legal actions. For, there is no provision for using colours in tea and using colours in tea creates problems related to food safety, human health, tea trade and quality, it said.

 The FSSAI is the regulatory body formed by the Union Government to ensure proper monitoring of the food safety-related matters.

It needs mention here that The Assam Tribune had, some time back, brought to the notice of the authorities concerned the menace posed by artificial colours used by some unscrupulous traders in tea. We had quoted Biren Shah, chairman of the Federation of All India Tea Traders’ Associations (FAITTA) and tea manufacturers also in the above news item. Both Shah and the tea manufacturers are of the opinion that artificial colour has become a menace for the tea industry as a whole.

The practice of adding artificial colour to tea started few years back in the South Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. It then spread to Maharashtra, Gujarat and it is now spreading to North India at a rapid pace.

The Tea Board said in an announcement made in this connection that the FSSAI 2011 regulation 2.10.1 (1) on tea has mentioned that the product shall be free from extraneous matter, added colouring matter and harmful substances. Of course, it said there are some permitted colours which are non-toxic and are allowed to be used in different food products like sweets, fruit juice, etc. The FSSAI permits use of eight synthetic colours in specific food items, but tea is not included in that list, said the Tea Board.

The Tea Board has said colour adulteration is strictly prohibited from the consumers’ health point of view and colouring of tea has gradually become a matter of serious concern these days. The treatment of teas with various colouring matters comes under the head of adulteration. Finished products of tea containing extraneous colouring materials, which are not allowed, are called adulterated tea. There are reports that substandard tea leaves are used to be coloured with Bismarck Brown, Potassium Blue, Turmeric, Indigo, Plumbago, etc, to impart some favourite colours or glossiness to the products.

Such colouring does not add any value to the end products of tea. Black teas are usually treated with Plumbago (Black Lead). Plumbago is used in lead pencils. However, so far there is no evidence that using this agent for colouring tea is deleterious to human health. But, the Prussian Blue used in colouring tea is found to be a toxic substance.

Adulteration of tea leaves is done by treating processed leaves with a mixture containing Prussian Blue, turmeric or indigo, etc.

Adding foreign matters to the teas for the purpose of deception should be strongly discouraged. Scientific studies are required to evaluate the impact of using colours on human health.

Though there are several methods to detect the artificial colours used in tea, one simple method is to rub a small quantity of tea between the thumb and the forefinger. Artificially coloured tea leaves a bright stain when rubbed. Another simple method to detect artificial colours in tea is to fill a clear glass of cold water and put some tea on the surface. If the colour of water changes immediately, it is certain that the tea has been dyed with water soluble colours, said the Tea Board in its announcement.

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