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Irish authorities deny bottle water scare

By Neil Merrett , 18-Nov-2008

Irish food safety experts have rubbished reports suggesting consumers in the country may be at risk from alleged contamination of some bottled water brands.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) claims that the publication of a 2007 report by environmental health officers (EHO) into product safety was itself a historic report of bottled water enforcement and any offending goods have since been removed form the market.

 

Details of the draft report, which were published in national newspaper, the Irish Independent, alleged that about seven per cent of bottled waters tested by officials were in breach of quality regulations.

 

The report added that the findings suggested that one in every 11 samples of water produced in the country were found to contain some form of contaminants, further denting an industry that has come under some criticism for its potential impacts on the environment.

 

However, the FSAI said that there had been no recorded problems in the country with bottled water since over the first six months of 2008. The authority added that the report tested a number of samples of bottled water at retail, vending machine and restaurant level over the last four months of 2007 and that swift ‘corrective’ action was taken.

 

FSAI chief executive Dr John O’Brien, said that the report formed part of a regular microbiological surveillance over a specific time to combine data supplied by EHOs to review past inspections of previous findings. O’Brien claimed that a minority of the 952 products tested in the country were not in compliance with European Commission rules 2007 regulations on microbiological criteria for mineral, spring and other bottled waters, and has been dealt with already.

 

“We do not wait until a report is compiled – if foods are found that are not compliant with the food safety legislation, then immediate action is taken,” he stated. “The report gives a snap shot of bottled water on the market in 2007 where a small number of samples 10 out of 952 (1 per cent) were detected with E. coli – 99 per cent were found to be compliant.”

 

According to the EHOs, 6.3 per cent of surveyed products sampled did contain the coliform bacteria that is linked to hygiene concerns at the source of bottling plants. FSAI added that the bacteria was not a clear indication that consumer health was at risk, but that any contamination as unacceptable and had been dealt with.

 

“Industry acted responsibly and where problems were identified, the product was withdrawn and processes rectified,” stated O’brien.

 

In addition to the report, the authority said that it had followed up with manufacturer and distributors found to have failed in complying with the standards.