Taiwan food and drug agency finds excessive pesticide residues in TWG Tea product, TWG Tea says issue overblown

SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) - Taiwan's Food and Drug Administration has found excessive levels of pesticide residues in TWG Tea's "Chamomile Green Tea" that was exported from India, the agency said in a Sept 29 notice.

The report is making the rounds in Hong Kong, where the luxury tea seller has a glitzy outlet at IFC Mall.

TWG Tea is owned by Singapore mainboard-listed OSIM International.

TWG Tea spokesman Maranda Barnes told The Business Times that the issue was overblown by the Hong Kong media, and consumers in Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Taiwan have nothing to be concerned about. The product in question had passed Singapore tests but was rejected in Taiwan, she said.

Complicating the issue is how different territories and countries have different tests that incoming agricultural products are put through, and how tests are expensive and impossible to do for every one of the 300 pesticides in existence.

Another issue is how tea leaves in Taiwan are tested exactly like fruits and vegetables, as if they are going to be chewed and swallowed. However, residue concentrations would be indefinitely diluted in an infusion form, which is how teas are usually drunk, she added.

Every year, TWG Tea sends 800 types of tea to Taiwan with no issue, she noted. "We put our teas through a battery of tests. Unfortunately, we cannot test for every single chemical in the world in every batch. In Taiwan, even if a product was rejected and sent back, the government will promote the rejection through the media."

TWG Tea is working with the Taiwanese authorities on the issue, she said.

A year ago, mainboard-listed traditional Chinese medicine retailer Eu Yan Sang had to reassure customers and investors after a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) alert warned of a lead-poisoning risk from its best-selling "Bo Ying Compound" product.

Eu Yan Sang said then that varying health standards were in force in different territories, and that the product in the US health scare was made in Hong Kong and meant only for sale there.

haoxiang@sph.com.sg