FSSAI has issued an order dated 25 January 2019 regarding the ban on the use of a staple. Taking into consideration the risks involved in the use of staple pins in tea bags the FSSAI had directed the concerned FBOs to discontinue the manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import of teabags which contain staples through two orders one in July 2017 and later in November 2017. In November 2017 the FSSAI had extended the time period to change over to the new technology for manufacturing tea bags from 1 January 2018 to 30 June 2019. This would give tea manufacturers ample time to switch to the new technology to seal tea bags without using staple pins.
The FSSAI has been receiving several representations from stakeholders who have all raised the issue of the cost involved in changing over to staple-less machines. The tea bag manufacturers have also pointed out that there are very few manufacturers of staple-less machines globally. The FSSAI has examined the matter and has decided on the following
- Blanket extension of further time period for implementation of the order dated 15 November 2017 shall NOT be given to the FBOs. However, the extension of time may be given on a case to case basis and which will be based on the firm commitment from the FBOs with proper proof to change over within a specified time.
- FSSAI has also directed all FBOs in the tea bag manufacturing business to submit their plans to change over to the new system by procuring new machines or modifying the existing machines.
About staples in tea bags
Since staples in tea bags can be inadvertently swallowed, they are a potential health hazard. Swallowed staples can cause internal bleeding in the stomach and even in the food pipe and require immediate medical attention. Moreover, staple pins are made from galvanized iron and cannot be digested if it is swallowed and can cause harm to the stomach lining. The FSSAI is mandated to ensure the availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption and for all matters that are connected to this or is incidental to this and that is why it has ordered a ban on the use of staple pins in tea bags as being detrimental to health.
Instead of staple pins, the tea bag manufacturers can use knotted tea bags, which are being used by some tea manufacturers. Knotted tea bags are advertised as being metal free and have the potential to retain better flavour. Tea bag sales are growing at a fast rate especially because of the demand for green and various flavoured teas. Tea manufacturers must, therefore, adopt the staple-less tea bags as soon as they can.