Simultaneous raids across the State by the Health Department have revealed that adulterated/spurious tea is widely sold in shops.

Samples of both tea dust and prepared tea collected from retail outlets and tea shops during the raids on September 22 found that nearly 50 per cent did not conform to public health standards, Director of Public Health S. Elango said on Sunday.

He told The Hindu that the raids were carried out in districts based on reports received by the food intelligence wing at the directorate. “Preliminary investigation showed that the tea powder contained synthetic dye, which is hazardous to health. The samples have been sent to laboratory for further analysis and what I can say now is that unsafe tea is being sold to consumers in many places.” Dr. Elango added.

During the day-long surprise checks, about 1,200 samples were taken and most of them were found to be adulterated or spurious. “The directorate has strengthened its food surveillance system. Violation of Food Adulteration Act 1954 will not be permitted,” said Dr. Elango. Around 3,000 kg of adulterated tea dust sold in packets were destroyed after the raids.

According to him, people must be careful while purchasing tea dust or at tea shops because coloured tea powder using ‘coalter dye,’ which is not permitted, is being used.

Dr. Elango urged people to carefully check the labels on tea packets, manufacturing date and whether there was anything suspicious. On doubt, information could be passed on to the Deputy Directors of Health Services in districts, Corporation Health Officer or Health Inspectors at the local level.

“Consumers can lodge a complaint with health authorities and it will be kept confidential. Tests will be conducted after seizing the tea powder,” he added.

The Directorate of Public Health has been following an effective strategy by choosing one commonly used food product for carrying out raids and collect samples. “The approach of the Tamil Nadu government was appreciated by the Centre as the food safety rules were being implemented in letter and spirit,” Dr. Elango said.