Elderberry tea acts, known as ‘tea trees’, are popping up across the country as people are trying to find healthier alternatives to teabags and takeaway meals.
They can be brewed in a variety of ways, including tea leaves, herbs and spices, and include a variety that’s naturally sourced.
But a report released by the ABC this week has warned of a growing number of cases of poisoning in communities around the country, with people unwittingly buying products from these ‘teabags’.
The report by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence found that the number of deaths linked to elderberry, a green tea plant grown in the UK, rose from 13 in 2017 to 20 in 2018.
There were also eight cases of serious poisoning in 2018, with five deaths and 11 confirmed deaths.
In many communities, people are unknowingly buying tea from tea trees, which contain dangerous amounts of lead.
The federal Government is set to release a report on the issue next week, which is expected to focus on the risks of herbal and natural products that have been linked to the growth of elderberry and its associated toxins.
The report will outline how to prevent herbal products from entering communities, as well as advice for people who have been exposed to elderberries, including information about the potential risks of ingesting the tea.
It is understood that the federal Government has identified elderberry as a threat to public health, with the Government releasing a draft Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) report in January 2017 that said the plant could be a “potential public health hazard”.
The report warned the plant was a “keystone plant” that could “contaminate” drinking water and had “potentially significant health effects”.
“We must do more to ensure the safe and responsible use of the plant,” the EPA said.
“It is our view that this is a critical public health threat.”
The report was due to be released on March 10, but has been delayed after the EPA failed to receive the necessary permissions.
A spokesperson for the EPA told News.au that the department had been advised that the Environmental Protection Agency is not in charge of the enforcement of the National Environmental Policy Act.
The EPA said it has not received the draft report and is notifying the National Farmers Union of the delay.
The report will be published in the Federal Register on Thursday and the draft will also be available on the EPA’s website.
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