Bottled mineral water quality: The stark reality

By Dr S V N Vijayendra

According to a recent survey by a popular regional newspaper, bottled mineral water quality in the samples tested was found to be inferior compared to the water supplied by local bodies. Around 90% water bottling plants do not have reminaralisation plants, which is essential to maintain the required mineral level in drinking water. Many samples found to have pathogenic and indicator bacteria like coliforms, E. SalmonellaShigella, Pseudomonas aeruginosaStaphylococcus, etc, which cause infections in the intestines leading to diarrhoea and throat pain.  It should also be free from other microbes like fecal Streptococci, Sulphite reducing anaerobes, yeast and moulds and Vibrio cholera and V. parahaemolyticus.

Many plants do not have necessary certification from BSI, FSSAI, ISI. Similar may be the condition with many such plants all over the country including our state. As people blindly believe that bottled water is better than groundwater, these plants are mushrooming in all towns and cities. Absence of thorough check by regulatory authorities is making the bottled water industry to flourish. Many of these do not have basic requirements.

According to the BIS guidelines, each plant should have a laboratory with a qualified chemist and microbiologist to test the water quality. A good quality mineral water should have microbiological (9 parameters), physical (6 parameters) and chemical (36 paramters) contaminants including pesticides and heavy metals within the BIS limits (IS:14543). Some of these tests are required to be performed on daily basis, some on monthly basis and some other on quarterly basis. More importantly, packaged drinking water samples need to be tested at regular intervals from a FSSAI notified lab, in order to maintain uniformity in quality and prevent batch to batch variation.

All manufacturers need to maintain hygienic conditions during collection, processing, handling, packing and marketing of processed water. The shelf life of the product should be printed on the bottle. Water should not be stored in bottles for long periods. Empty cans should be cleaned thoroughly. All bottled water manufactures need to take approvals from Department of Small Scale Industries, BIS and FSSAI registration and certification, State Pollution Control Board, permission from local administration (panchayat / municipality/ corporation), trade mark registration, permission from State Ground Water Development Department, if water from bore wells is used for packing. (MR).






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