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Tea and Decaffeination Guidelines

Decaffeination processing is not regulated by the FDA and adhering to industry standards is completely voluntary. The FDA does not have its own set of guidelines but relies on the expertise of the Tea Association Technical Committee (TATC) for the best practices. There is no sanction, legal or otherwise, for non-compliance. So what happens if a group is distributing "decaffeinated tea" that does not meet the standard? The first line of defense is the TAUS, who would attempt to correct the issue diplomatically. If that was unsuccessful the FDA would be notified and would follow up to see that the necessary changes to processing were made. So what do those guidelines consist of?

  • Teas labeled Decaffeinated will contain no more than 0.4% caffeine on a dry weight basis.
  • Caffeine Free Tea is an inappropriate labeling term for any tea regardless of the degree of decaffeination processing.
  • There are currently only 2 methods approved for decaffeinating tea leaves, solvent extraction using ethyl acetate and carbon dioxide in the supercritical state. Both are selective for extraction and create no toxicity hazard.
  • Carbon dioxide is considered the better of the two, keeping more of the benefits and flavor intact.