According to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, teabags with staple pins must not be circulation from January 2018

In an industry that is already coming to terms with the effect with the floods in Assam as well as the shutdown in Darjeeling, the FSSAI or Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has announced that tea bags carrying a staple pin will be treated as a health hazard. Knotted tea bags will continue to stay in circulation.

“The use of stapler pins in tea bags poses potential hazard to consumers since any loose staple pin consumed inadvertently with tea may cause a serious health hazard,” the FSSAI has reportedly said. “The Food Authority, in exercise of the power conferred under Section (15) FSS Act, 2006, hereby directs the concerned food business operators to discontinue the manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import of stapled tea bags by January 1, 2018.”

While this move is a positive step towards the well-being of the millions of tea drinkers in India as well as abroad, we cannot help but wonder why the use of staple pins was allowed on tea bags for such a long time?

“This is a good move and takes Indian companies towards adopting international standards. Staple pins are a potential health hazard and are banned in most advanced countries,” said Priti M Kapadia, Director, World Tea Coffee Expo Mumbai. Echoing the same fear that the FSSAI has sounded, “Use of staple pins in tea bags poses potential hazard to consumers since any loose staple pin consumed inadvertently with tea may cause serious health hazard,” said the FSSAI order.

FSSAI CEO Pawan Agarwal said, “We were getting complaints about the use of staple pins in tea bags. If these pins consumed inadvertently with tea, it may cause serious health hazards. ”

Staple pins were introduced in the 20th century as a cost-effective measure to hold the tea bag together as stitching the paper or other methods of sealing was more expensive.

Since Thomas Sullivan brought the first tea bags into the market at the turn of th 20th century, the little bundle of joy in the tea world has undergone several significant changes.

“At the time, tea was highly prized and very expensive by today’s standards, so the usual container for these samples was a metal tin. Sullivan decided to cut costs one year, sending his samples out in hand-sewn silk muslin bags (which resembled little little sacks) instead of the pricier tea tins,” writes Lindsey Goodwin. “At the time when Sullivan popularized the tea bag, many tea bag producers began experimenting with different materials for his tea bags, such as cheesecloth, gauze, cellophane and perforated paper.”

“Paper fiber won out as the preferred tea bag material of the day. Hand-sewn bags were replaced by machine-sewn ones. Later, William Hermanson (one of the founders of Technical Papers Corporation of Boston) invented heat-sealed paper tea bags, and sold his patent to the Salada Tea Company in 1930.”

In 1944, the typical shape of the tea bag was revised from the ‘sack’ style of bag to the currently common rectangular style of tea bag. The present-day tea bags started taking shape since the 1952’s “flow-through” tea bags which allowed one to make a bigger batch of tea than in teacups. The ‘round teabags’ came along only in 1992 but could not provide much of a functional advantage.

The most significant development came about with the onset of the pyramid tea bags which allowed the tea leaves more room to unfurl and lend better flavour and taste to the tea. The new-fangled ‘tea socks’ also held the roost for a while but we’ll look at them more closely in another article.

According to industry estimates, the tea bag segment in India contributes 3–4 per cent by value of total tea sales but it is one of the fastest growing segments at 50–60 per cent year-on-year.

Susmita Mukherjee


Vahdam Teas

Connect at

Stay Well Steeped

Be a part of the Wellness Tribe and enjoy exclusive benefits