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No more stapled tea bags from July 1, firms tied up in knots

Come July 1 and the food business operators (FBOs) will not be allowed to manufacture, store, distribute, sell and import stapled tea bags in the country. The decision taken two years ago in July 2017 by the top food regulator, Food Safety and Standard Authority (FSSAI), follows concerns that stapler pins may pose a potential hazard of inadvertently swallowing by consumers. Instead of stapler pins, the companies have been asked to make knotted tea bags. Though the ban was to be enforced on January 1, 2018, the FSSAI decided to postpone it further following request from the FBOs. After FBOs raised the issue of cost involved in changing over staple-less machines and shortage of such machines globally, the FSSAI under the Union Health Ministry extended the date further. “Last year, we had decided to ban the stapler pins in tea bags from January 2019 as it poses potential hazard to consumers since any loose staple pin consumed inadvertently with tea may cause a serious health hazard,” said an official from FSSAI. Now, the food authority has issued notification to ban the stapled tea bags by June end in 2019. However, it said extension may be given on a case-to-case basis depending on firm commitment from the FBOs with proper proof to change over within a specified time. The food authority has also directed the tea bag manufacturing units to submit their plan to switch to new system by procuring the new machines or modifying the existing machines. The tea bags, particularly those for green tea, packaging contribute to 3-4 per cent by value of the total tea sale. But it is the fastest growing segment with 50-60 per cent increase every year. “The Food Authority, in exercise of the power conferred under Section (15) FSS Act, 2006, hereby directs the concerned food business operators to discontinue the manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import of stapled tea bags by January 1, 2018,” the FSSAI had issued the statement last year. There have been cases when consumers put the entire stapled teabags in the cups and then heat it in a microwave; the pins are metallic and thus are very harmful if consumed. Stapler pins are made of galvanised iron. Galvanised iron is iron with zinc coating which prevents the iron from corroding. Friday, 01 February 2019 | PNS | New Delhi

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