TAIPEI: Gift packs of oolong tea sold at the National Palace Museum (NPM) were found to contain pesticide residues, according to test results publicized by the Taipei City Department of Health yesterday.
Two different pesticides - flufenoxuron and ethion - were found. Both are banned on tea plants in Taiwan, the city department reported.
The department said people who have purchased the problematic products can return the merchandise and get a refund.
The producer faces a fine for violating the act governing food sanitation, and has been ordered to destroy all the substandard tea products, department officials said.
The city government conducted the safety check a few days ago on three different kinds of fermented tea products sold at the museum - Oolong Tea, Spring Four Season Tea and Chin Hsuan Tea - after a local tabloid weekly journal exposed the problem.
City official Chiang Yu-mei, who is responsible for health affairs, stated that no pesticide residues were found on the other two products.
The museum can put those products back on the selves for selling, she added.
The city Department of Health report shows that the tested oolong tea was found to contain 0.12 ppm of flufenoxuron - a pesticide that can cause cancer - and 0.16 ppm of ethion, an insecticide that can damage the nervous system.
The Taipei County-based trader "iTea" was found to be the contaminated tea supplier, but NPM claimed that the tea it sold was produced from Nantou County, one of the major tea producing areas on the island.
The Taipei City government said it has asked the relevant local authorities to take measures to punish the company and producers involved for violating the law. They will be subject to a fine of between NT$60,000 ($1,860) and NT$300,000 ($9,300).
If they are found repeating the wrongdoing within a year, their business or factory licenses will then be revoked, it added.
As most pesticides are water-soluble and sensitive to high heat, Chiang suggested tea drinkers use boiled water at temperatures higher than 80 degrees Celsius to make tea and drain the first pot of tea.
Meanwhile, NPM Deputy Director Feng Ming-chu announced at a press conference earlier in the day that the museum has withdrawn its contract with iTea, and that it has also asked the company for compensation to cover the losses.
(HK Edition 11/17/2009 page2)