Calls for FDA to introduce tea fluoride safety standard

- Last updated on GMT

Dr Sin Hang Lee, founder of the green tea TeaForHealth, yesterday
demanded that the FDA introduce a tea flouride safety standard
after recent research suggested that ingesting certain levels of
the chemical could be harmful, writes Philippa Nuttall.

Lee also made public independent laboratory results confirming that his TeaForHealth beverage contains low levels of fluoride.

"All tea leaves contain fluoride, however the mature, old tea leaves contain more fluoride, as much as 10-20 times of the fluoride levels in the young leaves of the same tea plant,"​ Lee explained to FoodNavigatorUSA.com.

"In general, the level of fluoride in tea is inversely related to the EGCG contents. The more natural EGCG in the tea leaves, the less fluoride"​ he added.

Lee told the FDA that TeaForHealth​ green tea, if prepared properly, contains only 0.25 ppm of fluoride, whereas other teas contains up to 28 times more of the substance or 7 ppm.

He said that while the FDA has set 1.4-2.4 ppm fluoride limit for bottled water and other bottled beverages, it has not set a fluoride limit on tea and should consider doing so.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis claimed in January that instant tea beverages may be a source of harmful levels of fluoride, after finding that some regular strength preparations contain as much as 6.5 parts per million (ppm) of fluoride.

In the US the maximum level is set a 4 ppm maximum level for drinking water, 2.4 ppm is permitted in bottled water and beverages.

"The tea plant is known to accumulate fluoride from the soil and water. Our study points to the need for further investigation of the fluoride content of teas,"​ says Michael Whyte, professor of medicine, pediatrics and genetics. "We don't know how much variation there is from brand to brand and year to year."

Sales of ice tea are growing rapidly across the world, with the drink gradually moving from Japan and the US, where it is already well established, towards the potentially high-consumption markets of Europe. Global sales of ready-to-drink ice tea are estimated at $23 billion.

The US scientists said their discovery stemmed from the diagnostic investigation of a middle-aged woman suffering from spine pain attributed to hyper-dense bones.

Testing for the cause of her symptoms revealed the patient had high levels of fluoride in her urine. She then disclosed a high consumption of iced tea - claiming to drink one to two gallons of double-strength instant tea throughout the day - which led the researchers to test for fluoride content in several brands of instant tea available on supermarket shelves. Each of the teas was tested as a regular-strength preparation in fluoride-free water, and each contained fluoride, with amounts ranging from 1.0 to 6.5 parts per million.

The study was reported in the January issue of The American Journal of Medicine.

According to Whyte, the findings could aid in the diagnosis and treatment of patients who have achiness in their bones.

Questions surrounding the impact of dietary fluoride on human health still exist: some dentists and the World Health Organisation have backed fluoridisation, while other experts have said more research is needed on the issue.

Fluoride has been said to help decrease tooth decay and strengthen teeth in young children, but certain experts believe the substance can have toxic side-effects and prove harmful to dental health.

Related topics: Regulation

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