August 2, 2012, Ottawa: Two studies released today by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) found that dried tea samples analyzed for pesticide residues, mercury and other metals, as well as soft drinks and corn syrup tested for mercury, were safe for consumption. These studies are part of the CFIA‘s ongoing and strict testing regimen to help keep the food safety system strong for Canadian families.
A 2009-2010 survey analyzed 100 dried tea samples for over 340 different pesticide residues and 18 different metals. Low levels of pesticide residues, while not a health risk to consumers, were detected in 69 percent of the dried tea samples. Trace levels of mercury were detected in 32 percent of the samples. The levels of mercury detected were consistent with the scientific literature. Health Canada determined that none of the levels found posed a health concern to consumers.
The CFIA conducted a follow-up study in 2010-2011 to further assess mercury levels in 193 dried tea samples. The low average level of mercury detected was consistent withCFIA‘s 2009-2010 study, and therefore was considered safe for consumers. Studies by Health Canada indicate that the relatively low consumption of tea and other beverages would contribute very little to a person’s total mercury dietary intake.
The 2010-2011 study also collected 193 samples of soft drinks and corn syrup from Canadian retail stores and analyzed them for the presence of mercury. Ninety-four percent of soft drinks and 90 percent of corn syrup samples analyzed contained no detectable levels of mercury. The average concentration of samples with detectable levels of mercury was very low and therefore would not be a health concern to consumers.
Although no health concerns were raised by the results in these two studies, the CFIAconducted a third study on tea in 2011-2012, and another is currently ongoing this year to verify that products remain safe. Once the data has been fully analyzed the results will be published on the CFIA website.
Generally, the detection of elevated levels of contaminants, such as pesticide residues and metals, indicates that further assessment is needed. Health Canada’s follow-up assessment determines if the specific level poses a health risk, based on the contaminant’s level, expected frequency of exposure and contribution to overall diet. These factors help determine whether further action is needed, up to and including product seizure and/or recall.
The CFIA routinely tests various food products for specific hazards to determine if they pose a potential health risk to consumers. If a human health risk is found, a public recall notice is issued immediately.