Bottled water saga: Companies hit back

WATER bottlers whose products were condemned by the Government Analyst Laboratory as unfit for human consumption have questioned the credibility of the laboratory.

Report by Phillip Chidavaenzi

The government laboratory examined samples of bottled water from several suppliers following an inquiry by NewsDay and exposed seven of them as unsafe for drinking.

The 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 LeauChoisie and Aqualite had high chemical compositions.

The laboratory falls under the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare and is responsible for all the tests required at government health institutions, and is accepted as reliable.

The laboratory is also responsible for administering the Food and Food Standards Act and is a National Regulatory Food and Water Testing Lab whose operations are benchmarked to ISO170725 standards for testing laboratories.

Clemence Chitura, an official with Aqua Crystal Beverages whose bottled water was condemned by the laboratory, told NewsDay yesterday that it was unfair to blame water bottlers for the contamination of bottled water which would have passed through many stages before reaching the consumer.

“We test all the water before it gets out onto the market. In the end, you just blame us without even considering how the retailers store the product. In this case, the Government Analyst Laboratory (which did the tests) should have called us and told us about this. We don’t do shortcuts and we would have been comfortable with tests done on water collected from the source, not the supermarket,” he said.

In a statement issued by his company, Chitura admitted that the water-testing procedure undertaken by the government laboratory was “clearly defined and meticulous”, but claimed this might not have been followed in this particular instance.

He complained that the NewsDay story had affected their business as some retailers had pulled the Aqua Crystal water bottles off their shelves.

Century Ice director Tim Chiganze, whose water was also deemed unsafe for human consumption, said last week that the possibility that some of the water was contaminated at the outlets from which it was sold could not be overruled.

Dairibord Zimbabwe chief operating officer Temba Mutsvairo said the company would give a detailed response later. The sample for their product, Aqualite Premium, failed the chemical analysis to determine its suitability for human consumption although it was okayed in the microbiological analysis.

“The zinc concentration of this water sample exceeded the maximum permissible limit according to the Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality WHO (2008) Regulations. This water needs treatment before use,” read the government laboratory report on the Dairibord water.

Some of the condemned bottled water had been certified as safe by the Standards Association of Zimbabwe.

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  1. saka hatichatomwi mvurazve

  2. Yes indeed some of the water could have been contaminated at the retail outlets indeed. Shelf packers could be handling the bottles of water without first washing their hands. Ana Tim Chiganze give us a break please. You guys need lessons in damage management.

  3. mvura haina n’anga asi at times ine tsvina

    1. Bring water to Aglabs at Colcom Complex for independent testing.They are real proffesionals and they use ISO 17025 guidelines.The water is compared against WHO standards.

  4. Maresponse aClemence naTim akaoma varume! Ngavatipe maserious! Dai vanyarara havo! Saka varikuti sisi varipatill ndovarikuita contaminate mvura dzavo here? haya seka hako!

  5. dambudziko nderekuti vanhu vava kutsvaga mari nedemo even if means doing the unspeakable.

    Bvisai tsvina dzenyu muma shops, hamunyari makaita sei. Ini handizikuzotenga mvura iyoyo yanzi haiite. Police arrest these satanists.

  6. Mr Chitura, we drink water bought from the supermarket not the source, so they were right in testing water from the supermarket.

    1. taura hako Ngoni. hatichere mvura patsime kana pachitubu.

      some are using the city of harare contaminated mineral water and bottling. iko zvino there are so many variants like still water etc etc produced by reverse osmosis and all the jargon u can think of. vari kutivhara. vane plant pachitubu here vanhu ava? how do they prevent contamination at a spring in a mountain? tiri kudyiswa tsvina.

      govt analyst rambai muchitester mvura idzi and testai dzese without exception. no sacredcows. its our health at stake

  7. It’s not as if they took. The bad water from shelves only also the good water was taken from shelves. The issue is that some are taking good water for tests then passing and then going to bottle RUBBISH. Condemned brands should be removed. Dairy board make yoghurt close to the water plant and yoghurt has thousands of bacteria so the water will be affected

  8. Chitura akafunda here tiri kumwa iri pasource or musupermarket Kana iri se Century haidi lab test I bought 5litres @ TM Newlands yekuprepare mukkaka I tasted it after a day kana yemumufuku yaiva nani plz ngavasatijairira

  9. but how can they say the water was contaminated at the supermarket when the watter bottles will be closed airtight.they should just admitt that their water does not meet the required standards..if they want to discredit the laboratory that did the tests they should have gone to another lab for a second opinion but they did not.

  10. are these laboratories properly accredited?

  11. Saka SAZ iyi certified these waters handiti but it is said not to be safe mahwani chaiwo. This is the same SAZ whose seal is needed on breakdown triangle as if a driving motorist has a chance to read a saz badge on breakdown placed on the road. This is the same SAz who are supposed to put their seal of approval on an ISo certified fire extinguisher.

    1. dzimwe nguva SAZ certification is useless. i think SAZ has no basis for the certification or people are buying that certification label. call it corruption.

      tiri kuchekereswa kabisira

    2. these guts are just crazy. same as bread manufactures, most of them do not have internal delivery capacity and they even hire mota dzinombotakuriswa zvitunha to deliver there pruducts to retailers yet they still want to pass the buck. govt lab go ahead and test the bread for dangerous substances as well.

  12. Thumps up to Government Laboratories. but does ZLG meet the required standards too??

  13. Would this condemned waterm be more dangerous that the water from wells and boreholes which the rural folk use without being treated?

    1. yemuborehole and well from rural areas haitengwe. These guys are cheats. They might even be taking the water from the wells and bottling it and making big bucks ,who knows?

    2. Consumption of bottled water is a proper choice when no safe water is available or water treatment is difficult.It is readily available, low cost, better quality and taste. From 2008 up to date consumption of bottled water has increased due to unreliability and unavailabilty of properly treated municipal water (The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe report, 2010, the Herald October 15, 2010). This development created a market opportunity for numerous bottled water suppliers who promote the product as pure and impeccably clean water, safe for human consumption. There is a high likehood that there is an influx of fake brands of bottled water into the markets, which in one way or the other pose threat to people’s health. According to Al-Saleh and Al-Doush (1998), bottled water is rarely free of microrgnisms and chemical contamination. Many companies in Zimbabwe who are involved in bottling water business are declaring bottled water as chemically and microbiologically safe for drinking. Consumers may be exposed to chemically and microbiologically related diseases that may arise from exposure from metals and microorganisms found in water. In the absence of complete disclosure on the label, consumers are left in the dark, making it difficult for consumers to know if they are getting what they expect. Unlike public water utilities, bottled water companies may not be required to notify their customers of the occurence of contaminants in the water or in most cases to tell the customers where the water comes from, how and if it is purified or if it is merely bottled tap water, well water, river water etc. Water from various sources can be bottled eg groundwater, spring, distilled, borehole and tap water, packaged and sold to unsuspectint and vulnerable consumers.

  14. ngavatipe maserious, how come water can get contaminated in a shop. Panotestwa mvura iyi paplant, vesaz and the other guys from the gvt laboratories must be there.

  15. saka kana vanhu ava voblema vama supermks saka vanoda kutangeserwa nani.ngavatiipe ma serious…

  16. Independent Analyst

    I find it amusing that the producers of the condemned mineral water claim contamination at the retailers. This water is supposed to be sealed and the seal broken only by the consumer. If the water can be contaminated before the seal is broken then the Government Analyst is right. It does not meet the safety standard. They should also note that the responsibility of the Government Analyst is to ensure that products on the market are fit for human consumption. As such, they test products in the market and not requesting samples from the producers. Obviously the producers will raise standards the moment they realise their product is being tested. Any laboratory analyst knows that. Tipeiwo maserious Chitura naChiganze. Otherwise get out of the business if you do not understand the terms of the trade. Well done Government Analyst.

    1. Peter Macklyn

      What a ridiculous statement for a producer to make when he says the tests must be carried out on the product at its source and not at the retailer. The public do not buy from the source they buy from the retailer. So how does the water get contaminated from production to retailer shelves? These producers mus be prosecuted and permanently shut down because they are not honest, will never be honest and will just keep producing a harmful product. Why does Clemence Chitura think its unfair to blame water bottlers for the contamination of bottled water which would have passed through many stages before reaching the consumer? Who does he think is responsible for the poison in the bottles, the retailers are not likely to break the seals and contaminate the water and water should not have a shelf life because it’s only supposed to be pure water.

  17. solomon chisoni

    When a conflict arises the best thing is not to add salt to injury but rather try to find a common unnderstanding and rectify the problem before more harm is done. This is not a time to through stones at each other but to try to find a solution so that at the end , all players are left contented .

    From my own experience , no one would want to admit a mistake , but there is need to be responsible and accept one’s mistakes and them move on.

    Ko akambnoti mvura inotengeswa ndiani.

  18. When you do a survey of bottled water especially for publication purposes you do not rush to reveal the names of the culprits, what you can do is to publish the findings and just say company, A, B, C. Then there should be a mechanism of approaching the culprits and reveal the information to them. If proved beyond doubt that they are culprits there should be policies and regulations as well as enforcement mechanisms to deal with these matters. What i can see now happening is companies concerned suing the Government analytical Laboratory. There are a lot of loopholes legally that can be used by the bottlers to deny that they are manufacturing contaminated bottled water. The truth is many of our bottled water companies are selling contaminated water. I suggest that all interested stake holders should come together and help to address this issue. Shouting and blaming each other does not solve anything. We are aware that the water is contaminated. We are aware that many of our laboratories including the Government analytical Laboratory is not accredited yet alone does not have adequate resources and equipment for their findings to stand in the court of law. Let me reveal to you that among other things, the packaging material can also be a source of contamination and there is also a possibility that our bottled water may also be contaminated with pesticides. We are in such a serios problem in this country to the extend that i doubt if we have real credible laboratories, not that we do not have skilled and qualified staff but we do not have resources to adequately and efficiently carry the analysis. There are a lot of issues that have to be addressed. I want to thank the Dailynews and the Government Analytical laboratory for their findings and boldness to reveal this information under the circumstances. I want to see all the stake holders donating laboratory equipment to The government Analytical laboratory so that they can do their job timeously and efficiently. I want to see the bottling companies not cheating people by bottling contaminated water. It is our lifes. Let us look at this problem together and be progressive.

    1. @Researcher…Please don’t talk rubbish. The Government Analytical laboratory has the best and modern equipment in Zimbabwe. In fact the equipment is underutilised because of the number of tests that it can do. Musataura zvamusingazivi. GAL & Mr Chinyavanhu please keep on doing a splendid job. The consumers have a right to know!

      1. Researcher is not against the good job being done by government Analytical Laboratory, researcher is even calling for your laboratory to gt even better equipment. Researcher is evening saying your findings are in agreement with the researchers findings. Researcher is just saying there should be ways and mechanisms to enforce the culprits to comply or to stop bottling water. Legally the culprits may say the water was contaminated at point A, B, C . They would want to see if our laboratories are accredited for all the parameters we would have measured. We are saying let us engage each other instead of confrontation.

    2. Peter Macklyn

      It is the responsibility of the producer to ensure that the containers are up to standard as well as the water the are selling. They cannot blame anyone except their own product standards department who are supposed to test the product daily before it is sold to retailers as pure water. Some of them sell it as pure spring water but we know it never came from a spring. It’s normally tap water that has been passed through activated charcoal which itself has never been changed in years and has lost its cleaning/purifying properties. The producers are responsible and have been taking shortcuts. They have now been caught and should face the consequences. They must also never be allowed to sell consumable foodstuffs to the public ever again.

  19. The sealing of the water before despatch is the responsibility of the manufacturer and he is in turn in charge of his supply system to end user…if not he has only himself to attend to.

    Researcher thank you for your clear thought…you are right in saying the findings should have been returned privately to the companies concerned…allbeit with a basic report to the press stating the nature of ongoing discussion.

    Publishing names in press without due notice to those concerned is not progressive …the test lab concerned is not working to the highest interest which is in fact to create fast remedy through development of communication based upon TRUST and sensitvity to ALL interests.

  20. Chivero Dam water labelled “Chi-Town Chilli Water” bottled by Hacha Ndizvo at Guzha Township, Seke. Proudly Zimbabwean

    1. Peter Macklyn

      Poison in a bottle proudly Zimbabwean???????????????

      1. For a change the regulatory authority are stamping their authority,well done no to substandard products.

  21. Any Market that is dominated by Shonas is likely to end like this. We all know how unscrupulous these people are. I have always maintained that some of these people are simply bottling tap water from the Municipalities. I am not surprised.

    How can these people expect samples to be collected from their side instead of retailers’. What can contaminate properly sealed water? Nothing. Why are the retailers only capable of contaminating water not other food stuffs? or bottled liquids?

  22. Just a thought

    I think t there should be be engagement on this issue by all stake holders instead of running to the press. Remember this is a very sensitive issue which can unnecessarily raise an alarm to the extend of affecting the tourism industry. We do not profit anything by rushing to the press.One major problem with Zimbabwean is that of running to the press without examining the consequences of the actions to the country. i urge all parties concerned to meet first if there are issues of national interest. let me give you some examples, most of our products from groundnuts are contaminated with aflatoxins which cause liver cancer, we are leading in growing tobacco which is by far a major cause of death world wide, there are more than 50 known toxins in tobacco and many people die from cancer related diseases because of tobacco smoking, growing tobacco under big hectarage compromises with food security, a lot of deforestation comes as a result of people cutting tree to cure the tobacco, child and women labour practices etc, so do we say let us ban tobacco or we say let us engage one another and find alternatives? Another example is many of the fast foods in our retail outlets are microbiologically contaminated with some bacteria and in some cases E. Coli and Salmonella, do we say lets us close and ban them, do we expose them in papers? The idea is let us engage one another and do good for our country. Let us approach the companies which are not complying ant tell them that their products are not suitable for human consumption and that they should change their practices and be responsible to the society. If they refuse then we can nail them.

    1. tangai masunga mbavha dzemadiamonds

  23. Matsotsi ndasungwe. Sort your water problems and dont try to defend. this is about people’s health.
    Please maserious nhaika.

    1. sungai vakadonhedza economy yenyika vakaita kuti vanhu vatambura pakusvika pakubottla contaminated water.

  24. Those water bottles are supposed to be sealed in such a manner that the contents remain as clean and pure as when bottled. There is no way contamination at the supermarket can be found in the water itself. That’s why the lids have a safety ring that breaks off when you open the lid. Unless you’re cutting corners in your processing steps I don’t buy your explanation.

  25. I agree that contamination can not occur or caused by retail outlets. let us not blame the super markets etc. The manufacturers should be accountable and to shift the blame. Let me help guys, implement the HACCP system in your process then you will be able to improve on the quality of your product. Let me give you a hint, the packaging material can contain some contaminants that can leach into the water. Am just but giving an example, but in this case the likehood of the contamination is the source and also lack of hygiene.

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