Check quality

The union health ministry has ordered an investigation by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)  into persistent complaints about the poor quality of  drinking water supplied in bottles.

Though the investigation was based on complaints  from Delhi the study will cover  other parts of the country too as similar complaints  are come from everywhere. The FSSAI proposes to  ask state food departments to collect samples from the sources from where water is drawn, check the quality of the water sold and look into the procedure being adopted to purify water. The complaints  have mostly been about  contamination and the high level of chemicals found in the water. These chemicals are used to purify water but they themselves become a health hazard. Studies conducted  some years ago had found that  bottled water in many parts of the country was contaminated and had an unacceptable level of harmful bacteria. The situation may not be very different now. 

Bottled water is a largely unregulated business in the county with multinationals and small water bottling units existing side by side. There are thousands of bottling units which operate without a licence.  Many of them do not have a Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) mark.  Some of them misuse the ISI mark or use fake marks. Most  do not employ a microbiologist and do not have a laboratory which is necessary to test and certify the quality of  water. These are all known to authorities but the packaging units have continued with their unhealthy mode of operations. The bottled water business is worth Rs 2500 crore and it is increasing at the rate of  20 per cent every year. While the volume is increasing there is a possibility that quality might further go down.

The government’s action should not end with the investigations to be conducted by the FSSAI. It is certain that the results will reveal that the quality of bottled water needs vast improvement. Strict steps should be taken to ensure that bottled water is clean and conforms to the best specifications of quality. The use of bottled water is increasing because people want to avoid contracting water-borne diseases. But the bottled water itself should not itself pose a danger to health. All units, big or small, branded or unknown, should be made to implement the best standards of quality.

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