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International Tea Day – May 21st

An Initiative of the German Tea & Herbal Infusions Association

Today is international tea day! We’re taking this as an opportunity to provide you with some insight into the work we do with tea.

The GBA Group and Tea

The GBA Group provides a team of experts that deals with the constantly changing requirements in the tea sector every day. With our local and international networks and relying upon our long-term experience in the field, our experts can support you with all of your issues concerning analytical plans, sampling, and analysis, as well as provide detailed legal assessments and consulting.

Testing Tea for Safety and Quality

Tea is not only one of the most important products in the world consumed for pleasure, but it can also be considered a staple food because of the role it plays in covering the body’s demand for fluid intake. Testing the safety and quality of these products is therefore exceptionally important and poses a major challenge. The spectrum of raw materials to be tested is enormous, since practically any plant product can be used in tea blends, whether they are herbs, spices, fruit, or vegetables. Tea and raw materials for herbal teas and fruit teas come from all across the globe. Just as the range of products and their origins are diverse, so are the requirements for analyzing and assessing them. Testing for pesticides play a major role, as their usage can vary strongly depending on the country. However, contamination from mycotoxins, pyrrolizidine alkaloids, tropane alkaloids, and perchlorate also has to be inspected continuously in order to ensure the safety and marketability of these goods. Aside from that, you can’t forget about tests that check the composition and authenticity of these products.

Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids (PAs) – New Maximum Residue Levels Staring July 1st, 2022

Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) are naturally occurring plant compounds that are formed in a wide variety of plant species in order to protect them against predators. PAs can end up in our food products, such as tea, spices, leafy greens, and lettuce, when plants or seeds that contain PAs are unintentionally harvested along with them. Even an animal-based food product such as honey could be contaminated when bees produce honey with pollen containing PAs.

Worldwide, PAs have been detected in more than 350 kinds of plants. They are found more frequently in certain plant families such as Asteraceae, Boraginaceae, and leguminous plants. There are more than 600 different PAs of varying toxicity. However, the 1,2-unsaturated PAs are more relevant in terms of health concerns. They are considered to be toxic for the liver, carcinogenic, as well as genotoxic. Due to these toxicological properties, PA plants, seeds, or even parts of them are not welcome in food products or animal feed.

There are currently no legal limits for PAs in food or feed, so the general recommendation in the European Union is to minimize exposure to genotoxic and carcinogenic substances according to the ALARA principle: as low as reasonably achievable. However, this is going to change starting in July 2022. The EU commission has drafted a regulation laying down maximum levels for PAs in certain food products. With this regulation, maximum levels will be added to the annex of the European contaminant Regulation (EC) 1881/2006 for PAs in tea, flavored teas, herbal infusions, plant-based dietary supplements, supplements based on pollen, pollen and pollen products, dried herbs, cumin, and borage (fresh or frozen). As previously mentioned, the new maximum levels should go into effect on July 1st, 2022. For products that have already been produced, there will be a grace period of 18 months, which means they can be brought onto the market until December 31st, 2023.

Over the course of many years, the GBA Group has tested numerous samples (e.g., teas, herbs, spices, honey, and supplements) for PAs. For this analysis, we use LC-MS/MS technology to execute a method developed in-house that is based on the method described by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment. This method covers 28 different analytes so far and can achieve a limit of quantification as low as 1 µg/kg. In the near future, the method will be expanded to include the PAs whose analysis will be mandatory starting from the date that the new maximum levels go into effect. Do you have any questions?

Please feel free to contact us:

Tel: +49 (0)40 797172-0 E-Mail:

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