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Ghulam Nabi Azad directs FSSAI to keep a tab on quality of packaged water

Taking cognisance of the complaints about the quality of packaged drinking water sold in the National Capital Region (NCR), health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has written to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the country’s apex food regulator, directing it to check the bottling plants supplying packaged drinking water and the sources of the water.

The directive specifically pertained to the formation of surveillance teams to check the chemical content of water. It must be noted that there are standards set by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) for the microbiological formation of the packaged water. BIS has set up limits for chemicals and heavy metals, in addition to other norms.

Ground water remains the source, but the process from purifying to bottling differs from manufacturer to manufacturer. According to the experts, the one- and two-litre variants of bottled water are generally safe. But in the cases of the 20-litre bottles and the mini-pouches, the chances of selling contaminated water are bright.

K C Chaudhary of Consumer Voice said, “There are serious flaws in bottling in the cases of the 20-litre bottles and pouches. Ground water is the source, but one of our previous studies, undertaken a few years ago, revealed that the norms were flouted as far as the 20-litre bottle was concerned.” He added that many of the samples failed during the testing, adding that the problem remained persistent, because the authorities responsible of implementing the regulations were not able to enforce it.

FnB News tried to contact some packaged water manufacturers in NCR, they refused to comment on their practices. Reports of these malpractices, which have emerged at a time when market research firms like Ikon Marketing Consultants estimate that packaged drinking water industry, which is growing at about 19 per cent per annum and could touch the Rs 10,000 crore-mark, are definitely a blow.

IBA

The Indian Beverage Association has welcomed the health ministry’s directive to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the country’s apex food regulator, to look into the details of manufacturing practices of packaged water in the National Capital Region (NCR). Arvind Verma, general secretary, Indian Beverage Association (IBA), said the industry would comply with all the guidelines issued by the government, the industry.

Residential areas – New water hubs

Residential areas have emerged as the new hubs for unauthorised local packaged water units, whose proprietors are cashing in on the growing demand for bottled water and the failure of most municipal corporations in the country to meet it.

The fact that the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) – the country’s apex food regulator – has paid no heed to health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s instruction that the water manufactured in these unauthorised units be checked yet has emboldened the business operators.

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