Fake brands, bacteria proliferate in water market

By Li Yanhui Source:Global Times Published: 2011-7-8 2:52:00

A worker from a Tuanjiehu barreled water station in Chaoyang district delivers water to a home. A total of 31 brands of barreled water in Beijing were found to exceed acceptable levels for bacterial contamination. Photo: Wang Zi/GT

Sales for 31 brands of barreled water have been frozen after they were found to exceed acceptable levels for bacterial contamination.

The Beijing Administration for Industry and Commerce exposed 46 unqualified products for consumption on its website on Wednesday, including the 31 brands of barreled water. The total bacterial count for some brands surpassed the standard by as much as 9,000 times, according to the Beijing Times on Thursday.

The total number of bacterial colony-forming units (CFU) should be less than 50 per milliliter, according to the Hygienic Standard of Bottled Water for Drinking, which was released by the Ministry of Health in September 2003.

Liquan drinking water was the contamination winner, with 450,000 CFU per milliliter. Tianxing drinking water's CFU was a comparatively meager 560 times above the limit.

Mold and yeast were even found in the popular water brand Angel, which had a CFU seven times higher than the national standard.

"It's terrible. I have been drinking Lingxian water for a long time," a resident surnamed Zhang told the Global Times, referring to another brand that made the dirty list. She said she had trusted Lingxian barreled water because the brand has a long history and the water was delivered by Beijing Xiaohongmao service company, which has a good reputation and is sponsored by the Beijing Youth Daily Group.

Polluted water supply channels, filtration and filling systems could be part of the problem, according to the Beijing Times report.

A former barreled water dealer surnamed Hong told the Beijing Daily that hard work for low benefits also forces some water stations to sell fake and genuine brands side by side.

"Some illegal water factories fill the barrels with tap water but paste the labels of popular water brands on them," an employee surnamed Wang at a Hujialou Nanli compound water station told the Global Times on Thursday.

"The fake-brand water is available at many small water stations for about 10 yuan ($1.55) per barrel," he noted. Such water only costs about 4 yuan ($0.62) per barrel from the factories, he said. At his water station, prices ranged from 16 to 28 yuan ($2.48 to $4.33) per barrel.

"About 60 percent of the barreled water on the market is fake brands," Wang said. He suggested that customers check the water's serial number via water producers' websites to determine authenticity.

"Excessive CFU content in water means high health risks," Liu Wenjun, director of the drinking water research institute at Tsinghua University's School of Environment, told the Global Times. "Some bacteria may only cause diarrhea, but some may cause death, as in Germany's E. coli outbreak," Liu said.

The Beijing Cold Drink Food Association revealed to the Beijing Daily that the city sells more than 100 million barrels of water annually.

The association also suggested that customers check the identity of their barreled water, especially if the price is cheap, according to the serial number on the barrel's seal. This can be done by calling 9500-1111, the hotline for the Product Identification, Authentication and Tracking System, a body supported by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

Most customers do not take that step. Only three serial numbers out of every 10,000 are checked, leaving an opportunity for fake-brand water producers to recycle old serial numbers, Wang Zhaomin, executive secretary-general of the Zhongke Association (Beijing) Wangluo Technology Academy, told the Beijing Evening News in September 2009.

Posted in: Society, Metro Beijing

blog comments powered by Disqus