Tea produced in the Northeast is safe to drink, finds study

A team from Tea Research Association did carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic risk assessment of 24 elements found in nature

November 10, 2022 10:59 am | Updated 11:48 am IST - GUWAHATI:

Women workers  plucking freshly grown tea leaves in a tea garden on the outskirts of Guwahati. File photo

Women workers plucking freshly grown tea leaves in a tea garden on the outskirts of Guwahati. File photo | Photo Credit: Ritu Raj Konwar

Tea produced in the Northeast is safe to drink, a risk assessment study conducted by a team of scientists from Tea Research Association (TRA) has revealed.

Tea from the Dooars and Darjeeling regions of West Bengal have also been found to be equally safe. The study clubbed these regions with the Northeast.

Bappaditya Kanrar, Sangeeta Kundu and Pathik Khan, were members of the team that studied samples collected from eight regions in Assam, Tripura and West Bengal at the TRA laboratory in Kolkata to conclude that “Northeast Indian tea would not pose any health hazard”.

The study was published in the Biological Trace Element Research journal.

The team concentrated on 24 of the 118 elements currently on the periodic table although an earlier study by TRA scientists found the presence of 39 elements in the tea from the eight regions. These elements include lithium, barium, chromium, manganese, cobalt, nickel, zinc, silver, mercury, lead, tin, arsenic and uranium.

These elements are classified into alkali metal, alkaline earth metal, transition metal, basic metal, metalloid, non-metal and actinide.

According to the study, inorganic mercury and uranium were not detected in any of the 321 tea samples collected during 2020-2021.

“Tea is a perennial crop that requires acidic soil for better plant growth. Due to the acidic nature of tea-growing soil, metals can be easily absorbed by tea plants from the growing medium. Other anthropogenics (pollution resulting from the influence of human beings on nature) are also the major contributor of elements in tea,” the study said.

Growing concerns

Elements are also an integral part of the biochemical composition of any food or beverage and trace elements in tea may benefit or adversely affect human health, the TRA scientists said, adding that the study was necessitated by growing concerns about trace elements in tea.

“After carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic risk assessment of all the 24 elements, we found Northeast Indian tea to be so far safe for human consumption,” Mr. Kanrar said.

The Northeast accounts for more than 80% of the total tea produced in India.

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