Saturday, July 04, 2009

Chinese Teas at Trader Joe's ?

I am wondering if anyone else remembers Trader Joe's announcing that they were no longer going to carry Chinese teas? It may have been a global "product" statement but I am not sure so I am not quoting here. I know it was around the same time that the spot light was on Chinese product "contamination". I remember thinking it was a bold statement, and in my opinion short sighted and ill informed, particularly when it comes to tea.

Having never been in a Trader Joe's I was unfamilar with the store other than the raves I had heard from family memebers. So when I was visiting Maryland a few weeks ago I jumped at the chance to visit the Annapolis location.

Of course my first stop was the tea aisle, that's always my first stop. As I am perusing the selection's I notice a "jasmine pearl" green tea which strikes me as odd, right? I know that jasmine green tea is produced in China.

The image on the package looks like a typical Chinese pearl tea but states that it is a product of Canada? Yes Canada.

O.K. so we all know that tea is not grown/produced in Canada. Packaged in Canada certainly but a "product of" that is somewhat mis-leading.

So what's up Trader Joe's? Are you aware that you are in fact, even if circumvented, selling Chinese tea? Or was the swearing off of "chinese" form over substance?

More importantly, what is required for packaged products that are imported into the US? How does that serve US consumers? Especially those who want to know where the product, inside the tea bag that is inside the box, comes from? Is the origin listed on the package a "choice"? And if so should it be?

Feedback and thoughts are welcome.

Until next time, Beth

3 comments:

Jason Witt said...

It seems you're right and the corporate people at Trader Joe's aren't aware of the fact that the tea comes from China. How appropriate. (Not!) About contamination of Chinese products, they produce so much now that even with a bunch of recalls it's a really small amount compared to all the pure stuff. --Jason

Nancy said...

Beth, from my knowledge of US Customs, the tea shouldn't be able to be labeled "product of Canada" unless they made enough changes to the tea that it underwent a "substantial transformation"--it changed tariff number from "tea" to something else. I don't think simply repackaging it would be enough to effect that transformation.

When I was working as a Customs broker, Customs was usually aware of disconnects such as this--a product that clearly wasn't produced in the country stated--and would look into them. And no, country of origin labeling is not a choice--it should reflect the actual country where the product was grown or produced, in order to give the correct information to the consumer.

Rgds,
Nancy Murphy

Nancy said...

Further note on my previous comment: I'm sure that Trader Joe's has a compliance department that reviews their imports to make sure they're in compliance with applicable regulations. It's possible that the tea was blended, flavored, or scented in Canada and could therefore be labeled "product of Canada."

It would be difficult for us as consumers to know all the details of this particular product's journey. But it would be interesting to find out!