Faecal coliform bacteria and excess chlorine residues have been found in samples collected from seven of the ten companies in the city that are selling packaged drinking water, in 20 litre bubble top plastic bottles. Samples were collected on a direction from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, to test quality of packaged drinking water in 20 litre bottlers across the state.
In the first phase samples were collected from 10 firms by teams led by food safety officers K. Chandran, S.R. Jerald Sathyapunithan and S. Rajendran, last week. They were tested on 32 parameters at the department’s laboratory.
It included 23 chemical and nine microbiological parameters. “The results showed that seven of these brands were unfit for consumption,” a department official said.
According to the official, five of those samples had faecal coliform bacteria (due to faecal contamination – could be human or animal). They also had yeast moulds. The two other samples found to be unfit for consumption had excessive chlorine residues up to 10 mg per litre, which is manifold more than the permitted limited of 0.2 mg a litre.
“Excessive chlorine use is to kill the bacteria in water. The bacteria as well as high chlorine residues would cause dysentery and the latter could even affect the kidney in the long run. These contaminations could have been avoided if the water was properly treated using the right membrane and UV treatment. We suspect that these companies directly filled water in bottles without treating,” an official said.
According to FSSAI officials, companies selling packaged drinking water should test water samples 48 hours after it is packed, to check growth of yeast moulds before it is despatched for sale.
Officials said that all the companies from which the samples were collected had their own laboratories.
“Two of the companies from where samples were found unfit for consumption had obtained FSSAI certification. We are initiating steps to cancel the license,” an official added.
The department will be serving notices to the seven companies and seek permission from FSSAI Commissioner, Chennai, to legally challenge the companies.
“Samples from these seven companies and a few other companies will be constantly tested. If companies continue maintaining poor standard we will close the units,” the official concluded.