Fluoride content of retail tea bags and estimates of daily fluoride consumption from typical tea drinking in UK adults and children

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Abstract

There are concerns that tea could provide fluoride (F-) intakes that exceed safe limits. However, F- intakes at the recommended daily allowance (RDA) can support dental health. Benefits and risks were explored in an analysis of UK retail teas. Samples of 49 tea bags and infusions (black blended, speciality/single estate, decaffeinated) were analysed for F-/kg dry weight using an ion selective electrode. Standardised infusions were prepared and analysed as for dry tea. Daily F- from tea was estimated by combining estimated UK tea consumption with F- in black blended tea. Findings showed that mean F-/kg dry weight was 1164 mg black blended, 877 mg speciality and 1464 mg decaffeinated. Infusions contained 4.91 mg/l black blended, 3.0 mg/l speciality and 7 mg/l decaffeinated equating to 0.72–1.68 mg of F- per serving. Based on population means and 95th percentile intakes of tea, including non-consumers, daily F- intakes from tea were less than the RDA and adequate intake (AI) (except for adults with intakes > 95th percentile) but also within age-appropriate tolerable upper intake levels (UL) at both mean and 95th percentile tea intakes. After excluding non-consumers, intakes of F- remained less than UL for all groups except those aged 1.5–3 years or ≥65 years with tea intakes > 95th percentile. In addition, mean F- intakes of all consumers aged less than 65 years were below AI, while F- intakes of those at the 95th centile of tea intake were above AI. This suggests tea can be consumed safely from age of 4 years. Some brands contained sufficient F- for a European Union (EU) health claim relating to strengthening and maintaining tooth enamel. In conclusion, typical tea consumption in the UK delivers F- within UL for most age groups not taking into account other sources of F-, but greater dental health benefits might be achieved if average adult consumption were to rise to 4–5 servings per day.

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