Best: Majority of bottled water brands sold here ‘non-compliant’

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Article from the Daily Herald of St-Maarten.

PHILIPSBURG–The majority of the bottled water brands sold in St. Maarten are “non-compliant,” Inspector General Dr. Earl Best said last night.

Samples of different brands of bottled water were collected on March 25, August 7 and September 30, and analysed to determine the quality and compliance with legislation. The list might not be complete, Best said in a statement. Some brands are imported on occasion and not always available, but the most common brands have been examined.

To understand and interpret the results of the analysis, Best provided a brief explanation of the most relevant parameters. The norms are based on the Ordinance “Quality drinking water” (AB 2013 GT no. 754) and supplements.

pH

The pH is a measure of the acidity/alkaline balance in a solution and is determined mainly by the bicarbonate/carbon dioxide/carbonate balance. Careful attention to pH control is necessary at all stages of water treatment to ensure satisfactory water clarification and disinfection.

The pH is of major importance in determining the corrosivity (aggressiveness) of water. In general, the lower the pH, the higher the level of corrosion. However, pH is only one of a variety of factors affecting corrosion in distribution networks and household pipes which may lead to adverse effects on its taste, odour and appearance. The norm for bottled water: above 7.8 and below 8.5.

Health risks: At very low (below 4) or very high (above 10) pH water may lead to skin and eye irritation and gastrointestinal disorders, but usually has no direct impact on humans.

Conductivity

Conductivity is a measure of the ability of water to pass an electrical current. It is affected by the presence of inorganic dissolved solids, either present or added , such as chloride, nitrate, sulphate and phosphate anions (ions that carry a negative charge) or sodium, magnesium, calcium, iron, and aluminium cations (ions that carry a positive charge).

Organic compounds like oil, phenol, alcohol and sugar do not conduct electrical current very well and therefore have a low conductivity when in water. Conductivity is also affected by temperature: the warmer the water, the higher the conductivity. For this reason, conductivity is reported as conductivity at 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit).

The norm for bottled water: below 100mS/m.

Turbidity

Turbidity is a measure of the cloudiness of water. It is used to indicate water quality and filtration effectiveness (e.g., whether disease-causing organisms are present). Higher turbidity levels often are associated with higher levels of disease-causing micro-organisms such as viruses, parasites and some bacteria. These organisms can cause symptoms such as nausea, cramps, diarrhoea and associated headaches.

The norm for bottled water: clear water and the lower the turbidity, the better.

Bacteriological analysis

Bacteria in water can cause waterborne illness. E. coli and Enterococci live in the intestines of healthy humans and animals. E.coli bacteria produce a powerful toxin that can cause severe illness. Infection often causes severe bloody diarrhoea and abdominal cramps; sometimes the infection causes non-bloody diarrhoea. Frequently, no fever is present.

In some people, particularly children under five years of age and the elderly, the infection also can cause a complication called haemolytic uremic syndrome, in which the red blood cells are destroyed and the kidneys fail. About 2-7 per cent of infections lead to this complication which is a life-threatening condition, usually treated in an intensive care unit. Blood transfusions and kidney dialysis are often required.

Some other, less harmful bacteria may be present up to a certain amount, which is measured by the plate count.

Plate count

The norm for bottled water: below 20 kve/ml.

T-Coli (total Coli form). Not a health threat in itself, it is used to indicate whether other potentially harmful bacteria may be present. The norm for bottled water: 0 kve/250 ml (not present).

E-Coli: will be determined only if T-Coli is positive. The norm for bottled water: 0 kve/250 ml (not present).

E-Coc (Enterococci): The norm for bottled water: 0 kve/250 ml (not present).

Expiration date

By law it is mandatory to have an expiration date stamped on the label, the bottle or the cap. It was observed that many do not comply in this regard due to uncontrolled import in Sint Maarten or import from non-official distributors.

Bottled water has an expiry date because of its contents and the exposure to environmental conditions like heat and sunlight, which make it unsuitable for consumption with time.

Consumers always should verify the expiration date and are advised not to purchase bottled water without an indicated expiration date or which has expired.

Quality assurance

Manufacturers need to be in compliance with Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) guidelines and norms on hygiene. HACCP is a systematic preventive approach to food safety and biological, chemical and physical hazards in production processes that can cause the finished product to be unsafe, and designs measurements to reduce these risks to a safe level.

Quality control and assurance must be implemented and demonstrated by manufacturers; e.g., a water quality monitoring programme of the source and along the production process must be in place; keeping proper logs of lab results; packaging control; line, internal pipe and equipment cleaning.

Results

Best said there was only one brand that was fully compliant and consistent in all three tests, the product of a local manufacturer. The production plant and quality assurance are supervised by the Inspectorate, as is done with the other local manufacturer. Too many brands have demonstrated deviations in the pH and an unacceptably high plate count. None tested positive for E.Coli or E-Coc.

The Inspectorate will intensify its supervision and enforcement on imported brands, especially at the import and distribution points. Bottled water without an expiry date will be confiscated. Importers and/or distributors will have to provide proof of manufacturers’ quality assurance programmes and conduct testing programmes in cooperation with the Inspectorate.

More information can be obtained at the Inspectorate VSA, division Food Safety. The results of the tests are in the tables below.

To view the results of the analysis according to the waters brands, please visit http://smn-news.com/st-maarten-st-martin-news/13491-majority-of-bottled-water-brands-sold-in-sint-maarten-are-non-compliant.html.

Have a great evening and a blessed week!

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