Tea couldn’t possibly have any harmful chemicals or pesticides in it, right? I never, ever thought so, but I was… well… Wrong!
Since a recent investigation about tea (Camellia sinensis) being a highly sprayed crop, I’ve switched to specific all-organic tea brands, turning my back on some of my favorites due to tests showing high levels of carcinogens found in their products.
Modern food technology is again rearing its ugly head and causing brand new health concerns over this otherwise healthful brew!
It seems, many tea companies do not source their products from responsible growers. The pressures have mounted with the introduction of industrialized agricultural practices, added chemical fertilizers or engaged GMO practices to make the land yield more. The results of these practices have been environmental pollution, soil erosion, and loss of biological diversity.
A while back, Vani Hari, founder of Food Babe uncovered unsettling facts about 8 popular tea brands:
- Celestial Seasonings
- Trader Joe’s
- Twinings of London
- Tea Forte
Then, CBCNews/Canada tested black and green teas including Canada’s most popular brands: Lipton, Red Rose, Tetley and Twinings. Full test results can be found here. Of the 10 brands tested, only Red Rose pekoe came back free of pesticides.
One of the chemicals found was Endosulfan. This chemical is one of the most toxic pesticides on the market today. They also found DDT. Eight of the 10 brands tested contained multiple chemicals, with one brand containing residues of 22 different pesticides.
EuroFins (an analytic testing company) found 91% of Celestial Seasonings teas contained levels of pesticides that exceed the US federal limits. Considering all of the other toxins that the FDA lets slide by, this is frightening.
The Sleepytime Kids Goodnight Grape Herbal tea contained 0.26 ppm of propachlor, a known carcinogen. I may have given this to my children in past years!
Other teas, including the whole “Wellness” tea line, were found to contain traces of propargite, also a known developmental toxin and carcinogen. Meanwhile, thousands continue to drink the popular teas.
Just as Teavana was bought by Starbucks in 2011, 100% of Teavana teas tested were shown to be filled with pesticides in the Glaucus Research study and they were taken to court in a class action lawsuit.
It was cited that 77% percent of their teas would be banned from import in the European Union and 62% tested contained endosulfan, a pesticide banned in the U.S. and 144 other countries because it is linked to impaired fertility and may harm unborn babies.
Are Plastic Mesh Tea Bags Dangerous? Gluten Avoiders Beware
Increasingly popular ‘silk’ mesh bags and sachets are made of GMO corn-based plastic (polylactic acid) and can leach harmful chemicals like BPA. These bags have wooed major companies due to their fancy look and claims of biodegradability. Dr. Mercola explains, “While these plastics are generally considered among the safest in terms of leaching potential, the molecules in these plastic tea bags may still in fact break down and leach out when steeped in boiling water.”
Are Paper Tea Bags Better or Worse?
Imagine you could be consuming pesticides from your favorite tea’s bag… Yes this sounds crazy, but it’s true. Some paper tea bags contain the pesticide Epichlorohydrin, a compound used to keep the bags from breaking.
After each tea bag is filled it is sealed with a type of thermoplastic and coated in epichlorohydrin so that it can withstand being in water without dissolving.
Epichlorohydrin becomes active when it is in contact with hot water. This pesticide is known to cause infertility and can harm your immune system. This pesticide also causes cancer in animals. So….why are we drinking tea made in little pesticide bags?
For perspective, the E.P.A. allows up to 20 parts per million in drinking water, and epichlorohydrin-containing bags may include 50 parts per million.
(Source) Last updated 2015.
Natural Flavors Are NOT Natural
And those “natural flavoring” additives…labeling laws allow them to hoodwink us with this now; crude oil is natural, but do we want to drink it? It’s still artificial flavoring, but because it began from a natural product its allowable.
So, now, have these companies made sure their teas are not compromised? There is really only one way to know, and that is to go to certified (meaning tested) organic tea.
The following companies have excellent quality control reputations, and all tea bags are free of epichlorohydrin, as well as pesticides and artificial flavorings:
- Organic Numi Tea: “Our teas are pesticide-free and non-GMO verified,” confirms a company rep. “Our tea bags are made from manila hemp cellulose, and free of epichlorohydrin. The tags are made from 100% recycled material.” And Numi has a great black tea for those who want to make a pure kombucha.
- Organic Traditional Medicinals: “Our herbal teas are put into unbleached bags made from abacá (Musa textilis), also sometimes known as manila hemp,” says its website.
- EDEN Organic: “The bags are made from oxygen washed manila fibers with no polluting whiteners used,” confirms company rep. “Once filled, the bags are crimped and sealed with 100% cotton string.”
- Tazo organics: (note the chart above: their conventional (non-organic) teas have tested for possible pesticides).
- Organic Stash: “The filter paper used for the bags is made from 100% cellulose fibers (wood) and is made to appear white by forcing air between the fibers. No bleach is used,” explains Stash’s website. “The filter paper is not coated with the compound called epichlorohydrin.”
- Organic Yogi Teas: “The filtration paper does not contain epichlorohydrin, nor plastic or polypropylene. It is oxygen bleached using a natural process that is completely free of chemicals or toxins, including dioxin,” says a Yogi representative. (source)
- Red Rose pekoe was tested clean in the above test. I make my own kombucha with Red Rose.
For an even more pure tea:
- Select a Non-GMO Project verified brand of tea. The best way to avoid GMOs is to support organic producers. Look for country of origin and avoid China.
- Read the labels to make sure there no “natural flavors” or “added flavors.” There is no regulation on the word “natural”. Even MSG, fake sweeteners, and other toxins can be called “natural” on the packaging.
Fluoride in your tea? This is so interesting!
Knowing where our consumable products come from is becoming ever so much more important!