Shastry V. Mallady

Food cells to step up vigil throughout the State A survey indicated that industries were adding colour and flavour that were injurious to health

MADURAI: The State Government plans to crack the whip on tea adulteration in all the districts following a survey, which revealed the use of synthetic and artificial colours by tea industries and retailers.

A joint action plan to safeguard the `poor man's drink' has been devised by the Directorate of Public Health (DPH) along with the Tea Board to punish the guilty under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act.

The Joint Director in the Directorate of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, S. Elango, told The Hindu on Saturday that the survey indicated rampant tea adulteration since industries were adding colour and flavour that were highly injurious to health.

Test kits

Rapid tea test kits will be distributed to consumer federations.

Food cells across the State are being strengthened to increase vigil on stockists, vendors and shops.

Awareness programmes would also be conducted to explain the rights of consumers.

In order to evolve an action plan, the Executive Director of Tea Board of India, R. D. Nazeem, held a meeting at Coonoor in the Nilgiris district on March 29, involving retailers and health authorities, where it was decided to check the menace.

Dr. Elango, who represented the DPH at the meet, said that inspections would be intensified and the Health Department would seize the adulterated tea dust.

Why adulteration?

The major reason for adulteration brought to the Tea Board's notice was enhancement of the number of cups and taste. According to him, the tea companies were asked to explain their difficulties with the Nilgiris tea in comparison with what was grown in Darjeeling/Assam region.

"Tamil Nadu has a very high stake in tea since it is one of the leading tea cultivating states and hence adulteration has to be checked," Dr. Elango said.The DPH and the Tea Board had warned against selling colour-added tea as the Act does not permit any addition of colour/flavour to tea dust.

A few common health hazards owing to the use of adulterated products are nausea, vomiting and loss of memory. The Health authorities have cautioned that synthetic colours contain lead and that its minimum lethal dose should not get accumulated in the body.