Residue Problems in Tea – Global Interactions of Tea Board

Residue Problems in Tea – Global Interactions of Tea Board

By Dr. T. C. Chaudhuri, Director (Research), Tea Board


The problems of pesticide residue in tea are fairly well known both nationally and globally. What is important in this context is to appraise the efforts and the singularly important role that Tea Board, India, plays in regulating and monitoring the problems connected with pesticide residual problems in Tea. The perspective before Tea Board in this respect is to ensure that residues of pesticide in tea however minimal, do not create any problem in terms of health to the ultimate consumers of tea i.e. the tea drinkers, and, by implication, the problem doesn’t become a trade barrier for the Indian tea industry at large.

Action Plan

It is in this context that Tea Board had worked out a function mechanism by which it could implement the research findings generated in connection with residues of tea and their statutory aspects, for presenting an overall picture to the consumer of tea as a soft drink particularly to ensure that no human hazards are involved in drinking tea.

The two aspects related to this effort are:

Action plans to regulate pesticide residues and their implications at i) The national level, and

ii) The international arena

The entire effort is to get the participation of all concerned like Tea Research Institutes—UPASI-TRF in the South, Tea Research Association in the North East and IHBT, Palampur in North India for generation of scientific field data to help in computation of MRL. Similarly, the role of funding agencies like National Tea Research foundation (NTRF) and the Ministry of Commerce are appreciated. Likewise role of Government of India including the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Central Insecticide Board (CIB) and the Registrations Committee (RC) in regulation of MRLs are also helping in development of the total process.

Role of Different Bodies

The Board is basically involved in monitoring the entire program as the coordinating body, by specifying different functions and roles to be played by various bodies. The list of the commonly used pesticides has been finalized, with 25 chemicals in the list. Out of this, 16 are mostly pesticides and rests are weedicides or fungicides.

The list is available with the industry and the various institutes concerned with research on tea and pesticide residues. A crucial role is also played by the Central Insecticide Board and the Registration Committee in the Ministry of Agriculture, Govt. of India in screening/evaluation of pesticides for granting registration of chemicals including label claim against control of specific pest.

Once the registration is over, steps are taken to fix the MRL under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 and Rules, 1955 (PFA). So far six chemicals have been listed for MRL and the manufacturers of pesticides and the tea research institutes are actively involved in the field data generation for computation of MRL. Tea Board updates this information and passes it on to the industry.

International perspective

At the International level Tea Board has taken important steps to sort out the problems related to pesticide residues faced by the tea industry in exporting of tea to various destinations. Major questions as faced by the industry include the stringent regulation and the standards set by EU, positive list of pesticides from Japan, revision of standards and revoking of levels for pesticides in use for long time by USA.

Countries, like Canada and Australia, have also taken similar steps for revising their national standards on phyto-sanitary aspects and this action by the tea importing countries may create problem for the tea exporters from India. Standards are also being enforced in the USSR, Gulf Countries etc. It must be noted that it is not only pesticide residues that are hindering the export of tea but associated problems of heavy metals and mycotoxins are also coming up increasingly. Tea Board is fully aware of these issues and the Board is suitably monitoring the problems to ensure that they do not create any trade barrier. To strengthen the arguments of India, the Board has started generating field data on pesticide residue in different phases. The NTRF has provided fund to establish three pesticides laboratories, one each at TRA, UPASI – TRF and IHBT.

The Governmnet of India has given further financial support under a plan scheme to strengthen these laboratories. It is highly appreciable that all these laboratories are doing pioneering research as a part of private public partnership between the planting community and tea Board, India. Elaborating further, it may be mentioned that in the first phase of program 16 chemicals have been identified and the MRLs have been suggested to the PFA. Under the continued program 10 more chemicals have been identified and data is expected to be generated within the next one year. Under the informational program of action plan, Tea Board had submitted scientific data initially for six chemicals to EU for consideration and for revising EU standards accordingly. Although there has been no significant response as yet, the process of revision of earlier MRLs to the stringent level have been deferred in few cases, there by we could visualize the overall support of the efforts of Tea Board. Recently, volume of data on the residue of endosulfan have been compiled and submitted to the EU. The response is not negative either so far on the data. Efforts are being taken to submit more data to EU and also to CODEX.

The European Tea Committee (ETC) has constituted an International Committee for pesticide residue with the experts from the European Commission (EC) and their laboratories, Tea Board of India and Sri Lanka are members in the committee from the producing countries and the committee had its first deliberation in Hamburg in October 2005. ETC appealed that this committee should be provided with full information on the pesticide use by the Tea producing countries so that evaluation can be made in respect of alternatives and also for fixation of MRLs suitably for export of Tea. It is to be noted that the list of 25 chemicals submitted by India has been included and evaluation at the EU level is carried out. Hopefully some positive outcome may be reflected in the revised list of EU standard. Tea Board has made efforts to highlight the residue issues as they come up as trade barriers globally, in the forums of Inter Governmental Group for pesticide residue in the IGG, which has been constituted to generate relevant field data globally and to suggest MRL for global application.

This committee since beginning is coordinated by Dr. T.C. Chaudhuri, Director (Research), Tea Board, India and scientific data are being generated by different tea producing countries after initial hurdles are over in standardizing Good Agricultural Practices, Good Manufacturing Practices, Good Laboratory Practices etc., and the protocol for generation of data is finalized. Recently Dr. Andrew Scott from U.K. has also joined as co-coordinator in the Working Group to associate on the Global Information Exchange (GIE) program of the Working Group. So, far India had submitted data for some chemicals at IGG which were in turn evaluated by the experts in the IGG headquarters at Rome and finally submitted to the CODEX Committee on Pesticide Residue (CCPR) for adoption and fixation of MRL. With the coordination of Tea Research Institutes in India, Tea Board could submit field data for few chemicals at the IGG and finally to CODEX.

The next meeting of the IGG will be in Kenya in November 2006 when scientific data for three more chemicals will be placed for consideration. The role of UPASI-TRF in coordination of the national program for compilation of residue data is highly appreciated. The role of the PFA and the Expert Committee in the National Shadow Committee for CODEX is appreciated for its active interest for submission of the residue data for tea to the CODEX committee since last four years and their efforts have resulted in listing of four chemicals for MRL in tea CODEX list.

More data are under consideration and is placed in the next meeting of CCPR to be held in April 2007. Recently, constraints in export of tea to Japan due to positive list, particularly on the issue of residue of 24-D in tea, are being faced. It is being dealt with by the government suitably and field data are also being generated by the tea research institutes precisely to take a stand for resolving the issue scientifically. In addition to the issues mentioned, many more day-to-day matters relating to residue problems are also dealt with in the Board.


It is evident that Tea Board not only plays a crucial role in ensuring no trade barrier comes to tea on account of Pesticide Residues but it is also directly involved in monitoring the logistics of developing of standards for residue contents of various pesticides now being used on tea in India.

The Board is crucially placed to interpret the data on residues for the implications both at national and international levels. In the process it utilizes the expertise available both in the country and aboard and thus plays a very unique role in the world for tea in so far as fixing and revising of the MRLs of pesticides is concerned.

From the participation of Tea Board, various delegations from the Tea Industry and Government of India, to different international committees like CODEX, IGG for tea, ETC, Tea Councils, it is clear that other tea producing as well as importing countries have started realizing the role of Tea Board vis-à-vis India in removing the trade barriers on account of pesticide residues in tea.

Finally, the success of all efforts of Tea Board will depend on the efforts of all concerned including researchers, producers and traders of tea. Source: Foretell Business Solutions Pvt. Ltd