Nantou farmers defend their teas amid allegations
Tea farmers from Nantou yesterday vouched for the safety of their products after an ongoing probe into tainted tea drinks traced the origin of the materials to the central region.
The problematic tea leaves that the beverage chain store 50 Lan used may have come from a supplier in Nantou, but that does not mean that the tea leaves must have originated from the area, the farmers claimed during a press conference held in Taipei.
Hsieh Ming-ching, head of a tea farmers association in Nantou, said the tea farmers and their pesticide suppliers in the area work closely to impose strict control on the use of chemicals.
But the latest food scare has already dealt a heavy blow to the Nantou tea farmers, he said, urg- ing the general public to not jump to conclusions.
Hsieh maintained that the tea grown in Taiwan is “very safe.”
Liu Fang-ming, an official with the Food and Drug Administration, said the 50 Lan tea leaves came from Tainan-based Sanching Tea Manufacturer, which in turn came from a supplier in Nantou.
Liu said it remains uncertain whether the problematic tea leaves were grown in Nantou or imported from other countries.
Lin Li-fan, deputy head of the Agriculture and Food Agency, said her agency and the local government have jointly made plans to test the chemical levels of the teas from all the farms and vendors in Nantou.
It will take two weeks to get the results of the tests, which will be announced a week after that, Lin said.
Legislator Tsai Huang-lang, who helped the Nantou tea farmers arrange the press conference, said he has strong faith in the farmers. He surmised that 50 Lan’s upstream supplier probably imported lowgrade teas and mixed them with locally grown ones.
A 68,000- kilogram batch of tea leaves has been confiscated from Sanching after its products were found to contain excessive chemicals.
Tea has a large market in Taiwan, but locally grown tea leaves amount to only 15,000 tons a year, far short of the annual demand for 45,000 tons, according to Chen Yau-jen, a former chief at a government-run tea lab.
Imports have been relied on to meet the demand, and the majority of the imports are low-grade ones from Vietnam. These imported tea leaves usually end up being used by beverage stores in their tea drinks.
Meanwhile, another beverage chain store, Coco Tea, has also been named in the tainted tea scare.
The Hsinchu County Government inspected 25 of its outlets in the area, saying Coco had already removed all problematic tea leaves, totaling 122.7kg.