FSSAI asks FDAs, FDCAs to inspect tea processing units for iron filings
The Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has recently issued an order asking FDAs, FDCAs, and other implementation bodies to monitor tea processing factories instead of inspecting retail outlets selling the commodity. The state level authorities have been asked to ensure that tea processing units have appropriate equipment to check contamination – presence of iron filings above permissible limits of 150mg/ kg in the commodity.
Prior to the order, the apex food regulator had conducted large-scale laboratory analysis of tea for determining content of iron filings. Following the tests, it was noted that there were wide variations in the results due to various reasons. Hence, FSSAI held that till the method for assessment was finalised, it would not be appropriate to rely on test results for iron filings in tea.
The order states, “Until the method of assessment is finalised, the enforcement authorities may carry out inspections in tea factories rather than on the retail outlets, etc. to ensure that FBOs involved in the processing/ manufacture of tea operate with requisite equipment for iron filings.”
While contamination of tea powder with iron filings due to processing machinery is rampant, it is recently that FSSAI conducted laboratory analysis on a large scale and asked state level authorities to keep a vigil.
A senior official from the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), Assam, explained, “The apex authority has asked state authorities to keep an eye on tea processing factories. Usually, tea processing factories have a magnetic equipment setup which helps to check iron filings mixed with tea after the crushing stage. Several units have rollers to crush tea, through which fine iron filings get mixed with tea granules.”
He added, “Our officials are keeping a check that all such said units should have a working setup of such equipment.”
However, the industry is not really positive about the development. A tea manufacturer from Assam said, “We will be filing our representation soon with FSSAI. We are now waiting for the results to be disclosed from the Hyderabad-based (National) Institute of Nutrition to bring clarity. Many of our fraternity want iron filings limit to be above 250mg/ kg. It is just not possible to achieve tea without the presence of iron filings.”
Earlier, the FSSAI, in the month of April had directed that presence of iron filings upto 150mg/ kg was not harmful.But several tea processors in India did not welcome this direction and have been awaiting the final report from National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, where lab testings will be conducted to cite limits for iron filings.