Packaged Drinking Water - Some are microbiologically unsafe. Don’t drink them
In a country where sufficient and safe potable water is not available everywhere, either because harmful chemical substances are found in the layers of earth which enter into water or because the water may be contaminated due to pathogenic microorganisms, packaged drinking water is serious business. However, what if the packaged drinking water – the one that you and I buy at a price in the belief that it is the safest – is not drinkable enough? What if it has harmful organisms? In such a case, there cannot be two opinions that the seller is not only breaching the consumer’s trust but is also putting their health at risk. Considering that packaged drinking water is consumed by an ever-increasing population, the rules governing its sourcing and treatment processes have to be strictly conformed to. In order to find out if unhealthy packaged drinking water brands are being sold in the Indian market, Consumer Voice tested a dozen top brands – on the basis of their market share – in an NABL-accredited laboratory. While most brands passed all tests and fulfilled the parameters set by the national standards, the samples of a few failed in crucial microbiological tests. Is your bottled water brand one of them? Here’s a complete report for you to find that out.
The test programme for packaged drinking water is based on IS: 14543: 2004 with the latest amendments. Test parameters were mainly based on IS in order to judge the overall quality, as also on the requirements of FSS Regulations, 2011, which cover the product requirements. We tested 12 brands of one-litre packaged drinking water on quality, acceptability and sensory parameters. The testing was conducted in an NABL accredited laboratory capable of testing and analysing packaged drinking water as per the mentioned standards. The key parameters for which the 12 brands were tested included presence of undesirable substances and microbiological organisms, pesticide residues, toxic/heavy metals, total dissolved solids (TDS), pH level, radioactivity, turbidity and colour.
Top Performers - Rail Neer
Value for Money - Rail Neer
Remember not to use these brands - Aquafina, Bailley, Royal Blue and A4X as they failed to meet the microbiological requirements – hence they are not safe for consumption.
- Based on the overall test findings, Rail Neer is the top performer. Next in ranking are McDowell’s and Bisleri.
- Rail Neer is also the value-for-money brand – it costs Rs 15 a litre, as against the general price of Rs 20 per litre.
- Except for Bailey, Aquafina, A4X and Royal Blue, all other brands were found to be meeting the requirements of Indian Standard.
- Aquafina, Royal Blue, Bailley and A4X had total colony count (of bacteria) higher than the maximum permissible limit set by Indian Standard. P. aeruginosa bacteria were also found in these four.
- Yeast and mould count was found in Aquafina.
- None of the brands was found surpassing the maximum permissible limit for various minerals, toxic substances and residual pesticides.
- In physical tests (colour, TDS, turbidity, pH), all brands met the requirement set by Indian Standard.
- For Physiochemical Parameters
- For Microbiological Activity
- For Sensory Attributes
- For General Qualities
Manufacturer's Comments: Aquafina
Reply to Aquafina
The original test report was issued by the lab in NABL-approved format; however, as a policy matter we reproduce the test results in our standard format and share the same with concerned manufacturers. The tests were conducted in a reputed NABL-accredited and independent laboratory. Our designated NABL lab has confirmed that the earlier test results are in order as per specified protocol.
You can see list of our CV Comparative Test Packaged Drinking Water below, perform Side-by-Side comparison. If you need further help, do have a look at Conzumr Guides and Tips. Alternatively you can view all Packaged Drinking Water to choose your own favourites.
It is water derived from varied sources including surface, ground or sea and subjected to treatment like decantation, filtration (including aeration filtration with membrane filter, cartridge filter, activated carbon filtration), demineralisation, mineralisation and reverse osmosis. The packaged water is also disinfected before being packed so that it does not get contaminated until consumed within a specific time. The packaged drinking water shall be filled in sealed containers of various compositions, forms and capacities that are suitable for direct consumption without further treatment. In case demineralisation is a part of the treatment process, the ingredients used shall be of food-grade quality and conform to the requirements set by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India and rules framed there under.
Side by Side comparison
For Microbiological Activity
For Physicochemical Parameters
Apart from the toxic metals and substances, there are a few undesirable substances that can make drinking water unhealthy/unhygienic or hamper its taste. All these undesirable substances were tested as per the requirements of IS, and a handful of brands contained some of these in negligible quantities.
Nitrate in drinking water can be a maximum of 45 mg/litre. Except for Aquafina, Kinley and More, all brands contained some amount of nitrate, but it was well within the maximum permissible limit.
The sensory test was conducted in a reputed lab by qualified and experienced members who were capable of judging the sensory attributes of such products.
For General Qualities
All the brands were found to have the marking/labelling requirements and hence were given full scores. All the brands were marked with ISI mark. • The green dot (indicating vegetarian status) is not a mandatory requirement and some brands do not carry it.