Unlisted ingredients in teas and herbal brews revealed in DNA tests by high school students

Rockefeller University, New York

20 Jul 11

L-R: Grace Young, Catherine Gamble, Rohan Kirpekar

Take a second look at your iced or steaming tea. Guided by scientific experts, three New York City high school students using tabletop DNA technologies found several herbal brews and a few brands of tea contain ingredients unlisted on the manufacturers’ package.

The teen sleuths also demonstrated new-to-science genetic variation between broad-leaf teas from exported from India versus small-leaf teas exported from China.

Guided by DNA “barcoding” experts at The Rockefeller University, an ethno-botanist at Tufts University and a molecular botany expert at The New York Botanical Garden, co-authors Catherine Gamble, 18, Rohan Kirpekar, 18, and Grace Young, 15, of Trinity School in Manhattan, published their findings today in the Nature journalĀ Scientific Reports.

The unlisted ingredients included weeds such as annual bluegrass and herbal plants such as chamomile. The surprise ingredients are mostly harmless but could affect a tiny minority of consumers with acute allergies. Three (4 percent) of the 70 tea products tested and 21 (35 percent) of 60 herbal products had unlisted ingredients.

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