E coli in a bottle

Wednesday 15 April 2009

Ahmedabad companies found selling contaminated drinking water

bottled water in Ahmedabad may not be safe. The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation has found faecal bacteria in samples of water from three bottling plants last month. No action has been taken against the erring firms yet.

The corporation carried out tests on 23 water samples collected from these plants and found three were contaminated with E coli bacteria, commonly found in faeces. The bacterial coliform count in the samples was very high, at 240 mpn (most probable number) per 100 ml, said corporation officials. As per the Bureau of Indian Standards (bis), packaged drinking water should not have E coli at all. One of the companies, Rushabh Beverages, said it conducts regular in-house tests while maitainining hygiene at its plant.

The corporation has sent a letter to bis asking it to revoke licences of the firms. The three errant firms are among the 38 that have bis licence to market packaged drinking water in Ahmedabad.

A bis official said it has sought clarification from the corporation. But the corporation's medical officer, S P Kulkarni, said no communication has been received from bis so far.

The sequence of events is almost a repeat of what happened in 2003. No action was taken then when a few companies were found selling contaminated packaged drinking water. bis had then refused to revoke the licences saying the corporation's testing methods were flawed.

Madhulika Prakash, deputy director general (food department) of bis, said: "To avoid misuse of the isi mark, we have planned to hire private agencies and detectives to identify defaulters."

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