Nearly two thirds of French people drink tea on a regular basis and much of the tea consumed is the highly popular herbal tisane variety seen everywhere in France.
So the news that tea bags sold in France could contain up to 17 varieties of pesticide is sure to come as a worry to many.
The survey by French consumer magazine 60 Millions de consommateurs (60 Million Consumers) looked at 26 brands of tea, including major names like Liptons, Kusmi Tea and Auchan.
And results showed that most bags, including black, green and organic teas, contained traces of pesticides, with some including up to as many as 17 different kinds.
Out of the 26 brands, nine contained “barely quantifiable traces” of pesticides, said author of the article Patricia Chairopoulos, a journalist with 60 million consumers.
Four brands, however, were labelled as having “very inadequate” results meaning that they contain traces of pesticides exceeding the regulatory limits, or display a significant number of pesticide residues, explains the journalist.
Among those was black tea by Dammann Frères which had traces of up to 17 different types of pesticides.
The survey also found that Bio Village tea contained “nearly four times the authorized limit” of a pesticide called anthraquinone.
The two types of pesticides which came up the most often were folpet, a fungicide, and anthraquinone, a bird repellent, Chairopoulos told franceinfo.
But while it may sound alarming, Benjamin Douriez editor of 60 Millions de consommateurs put the matter in perspective.
“These are small amounts of pesticides, which are mostly below the authorized limits,” he told Europe 1.
But why are they there at all?
Apparently, if tea isn't sorted properly weeds which have been coated in carcinogenic pesticides can end up being mixed in with the leaves, said Chairopoulos.
Arsenic and mercury
In addition to the pesticides, all the teas surveyed contained metal residues, the magazine said. These include arsenic, cadmium and mercury.
But this too shouldn't put you off your afternoon tea, according to the magazine.
“They (metals) are not considered dangerous,” tempers Patricia Chairopoulos. “They are more like markers of pollution, these metals come from the soil, water,” explains the journalist.
Some of the teas tested were also found to contain something called “pyrrolizidine alkaloids”, toxins that plants produce naturally.
Many of these toxins are “recognized carcinogens”, the magazine warns. However, there is no regulation over them in France or Europe.
“The problem we are highlighting is that there is no regulatory framework for these alkaloids, that is to say that there is no limit to the amount that can be contained in a product.”
And what can consumers do about it?
Doctors say that in order to avoid consuming any chemicals in too large a quantity, people should regularly change the brand of tea they drink.