Who said mineral water is safe

KOCHI: Forget water supplied by tanker lorries, even mineral water produced by major companies, including multinationals, is unsafe for drinking with some containing E coli bacteria, reveal tests done by the food safety commissioner's office.

The special drive, conducted by the food safety department, has found that the quality of bottled drinking water and water supplied by tanker lorries is particularly unsafe in Kochi.

The three-day drive was carried out from March 21, simultaneously in Kochi, Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram, as per the direction of the food safety commissioner. Officials collected 34 samples, including 16 bottled drinking water samples and nine each from tanker lorries and water sources of tanker lorries. The samples were subjected to chemical and biological tests. According to food safety officials, the situation is alarming in Kochi compared to other two cities as 90% samples collected from the city proved unsafe to drink.

"Both chemical and biological results of water samples collected from Kochi are not satisfactory. The presence of E coli is a major cause of concern. As per the Food Safety and Standard Act it should not be present in bottled drinking water. In the samples there was a minimum of two organisms in 100 ml," said an official with the food safety department in Thiruvananthapuram.

Authorities said pH level in samples collected from sources and tankers were above the permitted level of 6.5. The iron and nitrate content in samples were also high. "If pregnant women drink water with high nitrate level, it can cause blue baby syndrome," said the official.

Tests showed the presence of E coli in major brands. The presence of E coli in a well at Toshiba Junction near HMT, which is a water source, came to 1,600 organisms/100ml against the permitted level of 10 organisms/100ml. Despite the grave situation, food safety officials expressed their inability to take action against those who supply unsafe drinking, considering the scarcity of drinking water in the city and nearby areas.

"The bottled drinking water is relatively safe but do not conform to our standards. However, we cannot take any action as this was a random sampling. The drive has given us some idea about the quality of water. We will collect statutory samples and if they are found to be contaminated, we will take action," said Biju Prabhakar.

A meeting has been called by the food safety commissioner in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday to discuss the issue and decide on the next course of action.

Meanwhile, tanker lorries, which supply drinking waterin the city, denied that water supplied by them is not safe to drink. "Around 90% of tankers supply quality water. It is true that some are collecting water from all water sources without considering the quality due to the severe shortage of water. But their number is very minimal," said A Ibrahim, general secretary, ErnakulamDistrict Drinking Water Transporters Welfare Association.


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