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Update from the Tea Association of the U.S.A. regarding coronavirus and the tea industry

As concerns about coronavirus grow in the United States, we wanted to share some information regarding the virus and its potential impact on the tea industry. The following information is from an excerpt on the CDC website (source):

CDC is closely monitoring an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus (named “2019-nCoV”) that was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and which continues to expand. Chinese health officials have reported tens of thousands of infections with 2019-nCoV in China, with the virus reportedly spreading from person-to-person in parts of that country. Infections with 2019-nCoV, most of them associated with travel from Wuhan, also are being reported in a growing number of international locations, including the United States. Some person-to-person spread of this virus outside China has been detected. The United States reported the first confirmed instance of person-to-person spread with this virus on January 30, 2020.

On January 30, 2020, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concernexternal icon” (PHEIC). On January 31, 2020, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II declared a public health emergency (PHE) for the United States to aid the nation’s healthcare community in responding to 2019-nCoV.

As for the risk of infection and how it applies to the tea industry, a February 26 statement from Peter F. Goggi, the President of the Tea Association of the U.S.A. said that there is little to no risk associated with consuming tea-related imports from China and other parts of Asia.

The reason for this is because, according to the CDC “The virus is not spread through goods but by human to human contact." The CDC also states: "In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures. Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets."

With this information in mind, the Tea Association provided this assessment of infection risk from imported tea products:

Tea Leaf: due to generally long transportation times from origin, the risk is very low.

Spray Dried Extracts: due to high temperatures employed in the spray drying process the risk is very low.

Liquid Extracts: Most, if not all, liquid extracts are either pasteurized or UHT treated, reducing the risk to virtually nil.

The report continues: "The Tea Association's position is that there is no need to be concerned about the risk of Coronavirus infection from imported tea products."

Another thing to keep in mind is that any tea you are purchasing and consuming in the United States today was harvested and processed during the previous year's season. In most parts of China, the harvest season is just about to begin, and China's major gardens are taking extreme precautions to ensure that those working in the gardens themselves and in processing facilities are in good health. Most gardens have begun closely monitoring workers to see if they present any symptoms such as fever, and are requiring pickers to wear masks and to keep a certain amount of physical distance between them while at work (source).

We hope this will help clear up any concerns or confusion surrounding the safety of imported tea at this time! We're keeping an eye on things and will keep our customers informed should any new information arise.

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Update from the Tea Association of the U.S.A. regarding coronavirus and the tea industry
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