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FAITTA raises alarm over artificial colouring in tea, calls for stringent action

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HT Correspondent

JORHAT, Aug 18: The Federation of All India Tea Traders’ Association (FAITTA) has expressed grave concerns about the practice of adding artificial colour to tea and has urged for the prosecution of traders engaged in this unethical act. FAITTA chairman Sanjay Shah, alongside other office bearers, convened at the Kaziranga Golf Resort in Jorhat on Friday to address the media and raise their concerns over this detrimental practice.

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Sanjay Shah voiced deep distress over the escalating incidents of colour adulteration in tea, especially in certain pockets of the country including the north-east. He emphasised that this practice not only violates the rules of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) but also severely affects the tea industry’s reputation and market dynamics. Consumers, unknowingly perceiving vibrant colours as a sign of good quality tea, remain unaware of the presence of colouring agents, misleading their judgments.

Sanjay Shah stressed the necessity for robust regulatory measures, including prosecution, to quell this issue. He revealed that FAITTA had provided evidence to FSSAI regarding tea packets in the market openly declaring the addition of colour in their contents.

Responding to queries about FSSAI’s response, Shah acknowledged that the regulatory body has taken cognizance of the matter and has initiated awareness programs to combat colour adulteration. The FSSAI website now hosts methods to test for colour additives.

FAITTA also underscored the role of state Health departments in curbing this malpractice to protect the reputation of Assam tea and other teas, along with the public health.

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FAITTA vice chairman Paras Desai highlighted rising levels of food inflation as a concern impacting household consumption and thereby affecting the domestic tea market. He noted consumers scaling down purchases in terms of volume and price points, making it challenging for packers to bear price increases.

Addressing another issue, FAITTA expressed reservations about the Bhat Auction initiative. The association, while supporting reforms toward a better auction system, contended that the intrinsic form of the Bharat Auction might not deliver the intended benefits.

Despite tea production recovering from pandemic lows in 2022, reaching 1365 million kgs compared to 1329 million kgs in 2021, FAITTA highlighted that production still falls short of the 2019 level of 1390 million kgs. Geopolitical conditions in Russia and subdued buying in Iran are predicted to lead to a 10% decline in tea exports from India. Additionally, FAITTA noted that while the Sri Lankan turmoil benefitted the Indian orthodox tea market last year, Sri Lanka has since recovered its tea production.

FAITTA’s 9th Annual General Meeting at the Tocklai Tea Research Institute in Assam, celebrating 200 years of Assam’s tea industry, was set to take place on Saturday. FAITTA’s diverse membership structure encompasses various segments of the tea trade, including individual companies, firms, associations, and auction bodies.

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