Multimedia:Bottled water scandal exposed

NewsDay has uncovered a possible scandal where suppliers of bottled water are selling contaminated water, which, according to the Government Analyst Laboratory, is unfit for human consumption.

REPORT BY PHILLIP CHIDAVAENZI

The tests revealed that some components found in the bottled water that people are buying contained chemicals that slowly poisoned the human body.
Out of 16 samples sent for testing by this paper, seven were condemned as unsafe.

GRAPH22
GRAPH BY TINOTENDA SAMUKANGE AND TAPIWA ZIVIRA

The government laboratory found water being sold under trade names Ad Life, Well Pure, Aqua Crystal, Century and Revive had harmful organisms and was not safe for drinking, while that sold under the names Leau Choisie and Aqualite had high chemical compositions.

We also sent along with the samples water supplied to Harare residents by the Harare City Council and that water was also condemned as unsafe for human consumption.

The tests cleared water from suppliers trading as Border Streams, Bubble Springs, Mr Juicy, Schweppes, Tingamira and Nestle Pure Water as safe for human consumption.

A senior analyst with the Government Analyst Laboratory, Raphael Nyamande, said for any brand of water to be considered potable, it had to have negligible amounts of harmful living organisms and chemical components – which was not the case with the samples condemned.

The Government Analyst Laboratory uses the World Health Organisation Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality (2008) Regulations.

“If the sample has failed in either the microbiological or chemical aspect, then it is condemned and not suitable for consumption. Both sets of results have to agree,” he said.

In his report, Nyamande said some of the samples violated the country’s food standards regulations.

“Samples FP189-190/13 (Ad Life and Well Pure), FP193/13 (Century), FP197/13 (Aqua Crystal), FP199/13 (Revive), and FP204/13 (Harare municipal water) violated the Food and Food Standards (Natural Mineral Water and Bottled Drinking Water) Regulations 2002, Section 4(b) in that they contained viable micro-organisms. The water was found not suitable for bottling,” the report read.

Ideally, bacteria forming colony units (cfu) in water should not exceed 100 per millilitre if the water is to be regarded safe for drinking.

The tests, however, established that in Aqua Crystal and Revive, the cfu/ml were “too numerous to count”.

The report said in the case of Leau Choisie (FP191/13) and Aqualite (FP201/13), cadmium and zinc — used to soften water — were found to exceed the maximum permissible limit, and therefore required treatment before consumption.

A medical doctor in Harare, who declined to be named for professional reasons, said cadmium and zinc work in the body in small quantities, but could end up poisonous if consumed in large quantities over a long period of time.

“Since these are just minerals, the body absorbs what it requires from the amounts consumed. Cadmium and zinc, however, have high toxicity levels so they end up like poison in the body, although this is quite rare. The effects of colony forming units, however, are not really specific, but one can end up experiencing things like abdominal pains, vomiting and diarrhoea,” he said.

An official with Chromo Pak Investments, producers of Ad Life, who was identified only as Mapiye, however, disputed the allegation that their water was sub-standard.

“We normally carry out checks. We have a quality assurance department which is responsible for that. We would need to see the results that you have and see the parameters that they were using because Standards Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ) officials do routine checks,” he said.

Farai Gunda, a manager at Mukati Investments, producers of Well Pure water, also dismissed the results, saying their product was routinely tested and met the SAZ specifications.

“We have certificates that show our water is purified. There are periodic tests carried out by SAZ every three months. In March, they actually came and did the tests and we have certificates for all the brands — 500ml, 2 litres and 5 litres,” he said.

Century Ice was listed among seven companies that SAZ last month said had been suspended for failure to register with the Food Standards Advisory Board, but their product, which was said to be unsuitable for bottling, is still found on the market.

Company director Tim Chiganze, however, said he could not dispute the results since contamination could happen at any stage between production and consumption.
He also blamed “pirates” for allegedly bottling contaminated products and sticking the Century label on the bottles.

“Because of this problem, we are working on security features for our product. We also carry out routine laboratory checks with different private laboratories. We, however, have not been certified because we didn’t know the regulations,” he said as he showed this paper reports of laboratory checks done on their water.

The pH (acidic level) in Ad Life and the cadmium in Revive were said to require monitoring.

The tests also showed that Harare municipal water’s zinc concentration exceeded the maximum permissible limit.

Revive Beverages’ telephone numbers were continuously ringing, while Aqua Crystal Beverages’ numbers, provided on their labels, sounded non-functional.

48 Responses to Multimedia:Bottled water scandal exposed

  1. wrongturn April 6, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

    parikudiwa action fast

  2. Matoto April 6, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    Batai vanhu

  3. tatt April 6, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    ahhh cm on….u wana kill us????

  4. Utano April 6, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

    So the gvt shld ban these brands as soon as possible please.

    • Science April 6, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

      You can only ban if you have an alternative. i do not know where you stay, where i live we sometimes spent two weeks without water. May be just to fund these bottled water companies and encourage them to do the right thing will be the best. a few millions of dollars will play the trick if you consider that most our diamonds money just goes to a few people.

  5. eria April 6, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    catch em

  6. simon April 6, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

    Something has to be done fast

  7. 2baba April 6, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

    Ban them. They are only after profits. This Ad life water is extracted from an aquifer. Just visit their premises in waterfalls. Chokwadi tirikudyiswa tsvina chaiyo.

  8. 2baba April 6, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    Ban them. They are only after profits. This Ad life water is extracted from an aquifer, pamba. Just visit their premises in waterfalls. Chokwadi tirikudyiswa tsvina chaiyo.

    • Science April 6, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

      If they are banned,do we have an alternative when the municipality water is itself contaminated? what i think is the relevant authorities should fund these bottling companies, give them proper equipment, proper training etc so that they can do the right thing.

      • Emanuel April 6, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

        Surely, you get money first in order to run a business. Not the other way round. People don’t get into chaotic business so that the government can fund them to run the business properly and safely. This is just criminal, period. Only those that have the capacity to produce safe water must be allowed to operate. All others must try selling cabbages and tomatoes. (hoping they wont end up selling horse meat)

        • Science April 7, 2013 at 12:05 am #

          I agree with you but let us examine how this problem came about, the truth is bottled water has become a lucrative business. People realised that municipality water is not safe to drink and the perception of people is that bottled water is pure and safe to drink, some greed people so an opportunity to venture into bottling water just for the sake of money. The truth is in many cases bottled water may be just as bad. the bottling companies must be monitored and must comply with the regulations, they must be enforcement. In Zimbabwe its difficult to enforce because of politics, if the company belongs to comrade akarwa hondo zvino toita sei?

      • Zhiii April 6, 2013 at 11:27 pm #

        Go to hell!

  9. M'lebeleli April 6, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

    And also test burgers, polonies, sausage rolls for horse and dog DNA. You’ll be shocked at the results.

    • Science April 6, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

      I agree people will be shocked indeed, but as a nation how do we address this? It needs all the stake holders to be involved. For example, the water that is used to process this food is contaminated, the premises is contaminated, toilets are dirty, people working are dirty, the country is dirty, no adequate budgets go towards addressing these issues. As long as we love politics better than our health, our economy and so on then we will always be contaminated. The city is dirty, there is so much pollution i tell you.

  10. Science April 6, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    A research project on bottled water in Harare was done and the paper is under review with an international journal. Our findings were that most of the bottled water brands are contaminated. government analysis laboratory may be correct in their findings, my worry is that if taken to court they may not be able to prove their findings. I do not think Government analysis laboratory have adequate resources and equipment to come out with the conclusion they made. Microbiologically you can say the water is unsafe for drinking that is if it is contaminated with pathogenic microorganisms. If levels of chemical constituents exceed the WHO guidelines you do not make a conclusion like the water is unsafe for drinking. WHO does not have a standard, it has a guidelines so the language should be the parameters measured exceed the WHO guidelines. The question of toxicity can also depend on other factors such has daily intake. I want to encourage researchers to do extensive work on bottled water in Zimbabwe so that bottled water companies who do not comply may be exposed and those which do comply may be protected.

    • Ecotoxicology April 6, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

      If I may point out an interesting point, regulatory laboratories like Government Laboratories, Tobacco Research Board, etc use standard methods for their studies. For example, determination of a pesticide in fish carried out at TRB will give results that are within acceptable uncertainty to the monitoring which will be done in European Union. When regulatory laboratories carry out their studies they use methods which have been validated for method bias by various quality control mechanisms such as interlaboratory studies.

      I agree with what you said that WHO doesn’t have a standard, hence in Zimbabwe we have a standard developed by prominent Zimbabwean scientist pooled from academia and industry that decided on what was unsafe and what was safe, ie SAZ. So when GL or TRB monitors consumer products, we can be confident with the results they tell us. This is the reason why EU countries confidently buy tobacco from Zimbabwe because they understand the fitness for purpose of the pesticide residue analysis methods at TRB.

      On a side note, the advantages of bottled water are outweighed by the disadvantages, considering that bottles contain plasticizers which have been shown to be carcinogenic, the bottles further cause environmental pollution, etc.

  11. Science April 6, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

    I have also noticed that you do not tell the readers the type of bacteria that you did analyse. It is very important information for the consumers to know.

    • Emanuel April 7, 2013 at 7:08 am #

      Are you in a position to take any bacteria contained in this water? If you are then don’t bother. Just carry on enjoying the bacteria. People are just concerned about any bacteria that is present in bottled water products.

  12. UNDEREMPLOYED April 6, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

    If the effects of water sold for drinking can lead to mortality then it is incumbent and immediately necessary that the Consumer protection agency initiates legal action against distributors.

    The manufacturers/ bottlers after they have been shut down must be accountable directly for loss of any human health.

    No favours. ..no corruption.

    • Science April 6, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

      Studies has shown that Municipality water in many countries is much safer to drink than bottled water. What i think is that the cities should provide clean and safe water to drink. Where is the money going to? Let us not blame the bottled water companies alone, what about the government, the municipalities, are they not contaminated themselves?. They should set examples before jumping on bottled water companies. Government analytical laboratory you are a government instrument, have you enforced Harare city Council to supply clean water? You know what the problems are, we are a country which do not consider standards and guidelines, a country without rules and regulations etc. Some of the contaminated bottled water brands are linked to politicians.

    • Shungu Dzedu April 6, 2013 at 9:58 pm #

      Remember the Anti-Corruption Commission taking over the Police’s responsibilities? Prosecution in this matter remains for citizens like you or for the AG’s office. The Consumer Protection Act is long in coming and a petition was recently made to Parliament, requesting them to hurry with it!

  13. WILLARD MUBVUMBI April 6, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

    Being empowered does not mean manufacturers should produce inferior, substandard outputs. Producers must ‘dot the i’s and cross the t’s’ whenever they process their pdts and endeavor in giving us high quality mkt offerings.

    • Science April 6, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

      To them empowerment has nothing to do with quality and safety. empowerment means killing people and putting the dollar in their pockets. Its a shame.

    • Shungu Dzedu April 6, 2013 at 10:00 pm #

      The IEE Act provides for sector charters that should govern conduct of companies so that IEE is not a passport to the wild west. The NIEEB is busy with big bucks and so let me know when Charters become reality.

  14. Abdel Al-Ghani April 6, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

    Standards Association of Zimbabwe is a dead body. They must to what they are mandated to do rather that pocketing salaries and benefits for nothing.

  15. konzeresai April 6, 2013 at 5:03 pm #

    ko zlg iri sei

    • Shungu Dzedu April 6, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

      I was searching for an alert person. Tiudzei nezve ZLG ? Report is silent on other brands which raises questions. ZLG, Somerby etc. They probably sponsored the study. They need to indicate how GL was provided with samples, to satisfy us that there was no contamination there. A tabulation of actual results should be made available, even if it does not have the graphic effect of 3 months consumption of undesirables. Then name the supermarkets still selling brands that were banned. Also quote the findings of the earlier reports and who commissioned them, Press quality is just as poor as water quality !!!

      • Science April 6, 2013 at 11:39 pm #

        In the study we conducted ZLG is also a culprit, a research scientific paper will be published soon. However it should be highlighted that continuous monitoring is required to validate the results. Let me tell you that some of these companies just bottle anything, be tap water, river water, borehole water, well water, spring water or pure distilled water. The bottling industry is really in a big mess.

  16. David Kasiyamhuka April 6, 2013 at 6:37 pm #

    No surprise here! Numerous unscrupulous Zimbabwean business persons would sell any other sub-standard product for a quick buck as long as they can bribe their way out of trouble! This water thing is only a tip of the iceberg in the food and beverages industry!

  17. Munhu April 6, 2013 at 8:18 pm #

    Aaaah tumai mapurisa anovasunga

  18. welcome April 6, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

    Typical Zimbabwe empowerment drive!!!

  19. Science April 6, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

    I want to applaud the Government Analytical Laboratory and the Newsday for publishing these findings, it is a good starting point. The government and the public sector should support the Government analytical laboratory with more resources and equipment so that they can continue to execute their duties with speed and efficiency. This information is very useful. Thanks guys for a job well done.

    • Shungu Dzedu April 6, 2013 at 10:10 pm #

      Hear hear. Yet, my good man, that rings like thanks for water less contaminated than municipal water. The quality of the reporting of the investigation is below par. Thanks for the alert but the job has not been well done. And it is a starting point which could have been better executed. We cannot continue to be grateful for little mercies, nhai?

  20. C de SA April 7, 2013 at 1:11 am #

    I am saddened to see that Aqua Crystal is one of the culprits. I started this company and at the time of selling the company Aqua Crystal was the most purified and clean water available with NO bacteria what so ever and a TDS (total dissolved solids )of <1 What has happened? The water was regularly tested by Goverment laboratories randomly by the city of Harare and my own testing. Very distressing

  21. liki wiki April 7, 2013 at 7:34 am #

    A lot of people are dying because of drinking contaminated water.These companies should invest in funeral business as well -a sort business integration they will reap more profits by so doing.

  22. liki wiki April 7, 2013 at 7:36 am #

    Hapana choice kumwa mvura inematuzvi isiri mubhodhoro neiri mubhodhoro zvakangofanana chete.

  23. Antony ncube April 7, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    Nobody cares for another in our country as long as it generates money then its ok,just look at every corner and even ask yourself,do u do good to serve the community?what ever you do,do u serve to the best interest of others.the majority of us zimboz are corupt.

    • Science April 7, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

      I agree with you, we are ego and do not care, the whole system should change,we should accept short ignorance and be civilized , we pretend to know when we do not know.

  24. Gazebo April 7, 2013 at 7:14 pm #

    Sungai vanhu

  25. chakapedzambudzi April 7, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

    catch them young. Bengakakuli amakhanda. Libatshaye njalo

  26. rmunemo April 8, 2013 at 7:46 am #

    ungatengawo mvura from a vendor at 4th street voti yakachena ?

  27. Master April 8, 2013 at 8:29 am #

    Sungai kanzuru yatadza kuisa mvura muma pombi, jus leave those people and deal with the municipality first.

  28. Manslaughter April 8, 2013 at 9:09 am #

    This is not the first time and the government is silent about it. Whose relatives’ companies are these , Minister we mvura ngaa act faster faster varoyi vana Add life and Well pure vasati vati pedza. Ansi Add life wapotsa panonsi Add goblins. batai vangu vasati vatipedza zve Century yese. I chooooooooooooooooooo. This is good healthy news but SAZ yakatsva, imbwe ine mavende zvayo.

  29. kevy April 8, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    they have to be banned if they cantt meet up wih the specified standards. let those who are into quality continue operating. these companies are after profits.

  30. kevy April 8, 2013 at 10:06 am #

    they are making profit @ the expense of our lives.these companies are endangering our lives they have to be banned

  31. Wezimbbawe April 8, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    Is this indigenization. The Minister of indigenisation should check these companies, because of the future leaders are being gradually killed by the Zinc in these waters. batai munhu Minister.

  32. dhara April 8, 2013 at 11:37 am #

    Am not surprised Tingamira passed the test. Mvura yekwaMutare iheavy akomana. Selling bottled water in Mutare is not good business because every tap inobuda pure,clean and great water. Can I get an amen from anyone who has ever drunk water in Mutare.

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