“The Hong Kong government is very passive when it comes to food safety. Guangdong and Hong Kong have all kinds of laws relating to food safety but they wait until an accident happens before they release any information. This cannot guarantee public food safety. Many pesticides do not cause immediate effects but if they are eaten over the long term they can interfere with the endocrine system, and increase the risks of cancer.” Kate Lin, Greenpeace Campaigner.
Pesticide sprayed every day
This year, Greenpeace tested sample of fresh fruit and vegetables from three big supermarket chains, and found that they were seriously contaminated with pesticide residues. But neither the supermarkets nor the government reacted by tightening control of the suppliers. Since the bulk of the vegetables we buy in Hong Kong come from Guangdong we decided to start a campaign to investigate the misuse of pesticides in the Pearl River Delta region. This is what we found out:
It’s extremely hard to tell just by looking whether your food contains pesticide residues. It’s only by having strict controls where vegetables are grown that we can put a stop to the misuse of pesticides. And genuinely safeguard our food safety.
Special Report: Food Safety in Taiwan
This February we launched our food safety campaign in Taiwan. We exposed how six big supermarket chains on the island were also selling fresh produce that was also seriously contaminated by pesticides. At the beginning of July we got some good news: RT Mart took the lead and starting from next year they will require their suppliers not to use 24 highly toxic pesticides.
All the tea in China
We might have celebrated with champagne, but our real victory was in tea. For our campaign against pesticide use in China earlier this year we chose one of the nation’s oldest and most treasured traditions – tea drinking – as our target. And it worked. Beautifully.
What we did
Beginning of last year, we took 18 different teas from nine different tea companies and sent them to an independent laboratory to test for pesticide residues. Many of these brands you can buy in Hong Kong, for example China Tea, Tenfu’s Tea, Wuyutai, Zhang Yiyuan and Richun. We tested three kinds of tea: green, oolong and jasmine.
What we found
The results were worse than we feared. For the nine brands of Chinese tea we found:
• 12 of the 18 samples contained traces of at least one banned pesticide.
• All 18 samples contained at least three pesticides. A cup of Richun’s has 17 different kind of pesticides!
And for the four Lipton samples we found all samples contained pesticide residues that exceeded EU levels. In three of the samples we found pesticides that were banned to use on tea in China which may affect fertility, harm an unborn child or cause heritable genetic damage:
Why we did it
Tea strikes right at the heart of China. It’s a national custom that is cherished by everyone. We knew the public outrage at knowing their national drink is contaminated with banned poisons would be enough to motivate the top tea companies to get serious on stopping pesticide use and the first step to doing that is have a product traceability system in place.
And what we achieved
In didn’t take long. In just a few months after our campaign Tenfu’s Tea and ATG agreed to our demands. Tenfu, one of the best-selling tea brands in China, said it would set up a tea traceability system in China and reduce pesticide use. ATG has promised to have a full product traceability system in place within five years.
Food safety is closely related to the environment and human health. For the benefit of this and the next generations, please help Greenpeace in its effort to check and disclose the amount of pesticide residues on food products, and urge governments to improve their supervision on food safety .