Tea Blender: US Imports Will Absorb Greater Food Safety Responsibility

QTrade Teas & Herbs, the largest supplier of organic and fair trade tea in North America, says the most significant reform of U.S. food supply in 70 years is underway — and it will affect tea importers, too.

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LOS ANGELES, Calif. — QTrade Teas & Herbs, the largest supplier of organic and fair trade tea in North America, says the most significant reform of U.S. food supply in 70 years is underway — and it will affect tea importers, too. QTrade serves major tea brands, tea retailers, coffee roasters, foodservice and bottled drink brands. See QTradeTeas.com.

"Tea importers will absorb much greater responsibility for overall food safety — including much closer documentation and review of supplier conduct related to managing food hazards," said Ron Eng, vice president of quality assurance at QTrade Teas & Herbs. "This is the result of changing U.S. governmental regulation, pressures to elevate quality programs, and the requirements of all major beverage and tea brands. Retail brands will also more heavily rely on safety-certified partners to mitigate risk of product recalls."

To be ahead of the food safety curve within the tea industry, QTrade is an early adopter — one of the first of the U.S.'s tea blenders to achieve SQF Institute Certification. Being SQF Certified assures buyers and customers that QTrade tea has been produced, processed and handled according to the highest standards. SQF Certification is recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative, which focuses on the improvement of food safety management systems for the delivery of safe food to consumers worldwide.

SQF certificates provide a verifiable paper trail, ensuring a company has the correct processes in place and has implemented all applicable SQF guidelines for effectively managing food safety. In QTrade's case, the company's 70,000 sq. ft. facility and processes in Cerritos, Calif. were certified. The company typically blends 40,000 pounds of tea daily and warehouses up to three million pounds of tea and spices.

"Certification is an important milestone for our business and customers, as well as the industry," said Eng. "We're getting positive feedback from our clientele and interest from new customers and brands, as a result."

Safety of Imported Ingredients

QTrade Teas & Herbs President Manjiv Jayakumar noted the share of tropical products — tea, spices, coffee and cocoa — imported to the United States is nearly 100 percent since domestic production is close to zero. This means importers like QTrade deal almost exclusively with foreign suppliers, usually relying heavily on documentation and testing offered by the supplier.

"QTrade's tea supply chain is anchored on five continents, and our task is to ensure the safety of imported ingredients for all of our many customers and their customers," said Jayakumar. "Thus, SQF Certification is highly beneficial to ensure the proper import measures, documentation and production steps are in place."

According to Jayakumar, major tea brands, foodservice and bottled drink brands will seek out tea blenders that have certification. "These types of companies — especially the major brands — are going to require a high level of food safety commitment, as well as the SQF Certification."

Jayakumar added: "While tea is not a high-risk food, the greatest safety threat is in the form of microbiological and chemical contamination, as well as improper handling of allergens. So, we believe that all North American tea blenders must take responsibility for quality, as it's all too easy to unwisely assign responsibility blindly to international suppliers."

To learn more about QTrade Teas & Herbs, see QTradeTeas.com.

About QTrade Teas & Herbs

Steeped in more than a 150 years of garden level expertise, QTrade Teas & Herbs supplied the companies that pioneered specialty tea. QTrade is the largest supplier of organic teas in North America, supporting clients from innovation through implementation by providing product development services, contract manufacturing (blending and packing of hot and iced teas), and expert sourcing and supply chain management services. QTrade's clients include the largest tea conglomerates and tea retailers, coffee roasters, foodservice and bottled drink brands. See QTradeTeas.com.

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