A total of five brands of oolong tea manufactured by Shanghai companies were found to contain more than allowed levels of these elements in inspections by the regulator, according to a news report in the Shanghai Daily,
Oolong is a traditional Chinese tea that is most popular in South China, Taiwan, and within the Chinese populace in South East Asian countries.
An official from the watchdog, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, confirmed to FoodNavigator-Asia the authenticity of the report, but declined to provide more comment.
The Shanghai Daily report said that the regulator was carrying out the checks on 58 oolong tea products from Shanghai, Beijing and the provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, Fujian and Guangdong.
The five brands of oolong tea - Mingfeng, Jiaranlu, Zhengxiangyuan, Cuiming and Shenxin – were part of 19 such products inspected in Shanghai, said the report, and all of five them exceeded the minimum allowed level of rare-earth elements.
Chinese law states that food products might contain rare-earth elements, as they increase output and flavor, but that cannot be more than 2 milligrams per kilogram as its overuse leaves potentially harmful residue.
In addition, the report said, the regulator also found that a Tieguanyin variety of oolong produced for Unilever-owned Lipton also failed to meet the standards for rare-earth elements.
FoodNavigator-Asia was unable to reach anybody from Unilever China on this issue and whether it was aware of the inspections and its findings.
This is the latest in line of a series of checks and measures that China is introducing on the food and grocery sector order to increase the public's trust in food safety in the country.
Just last week, the State Council of China issued new regulations to create a stronger regulatory environment for the functional foods market, whose exponential growth has coincided with a rise in the number of complaints.