The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bottled water faces new standards

New Delhi, Feb. 11: The government is thinking of withdrawing quality-related ISI licences from companies that do not adhere to the new standards for packaged and bottled water.

The plan comes in the wake of a recent study that found pesticides in bottled drinking and mineral water. The Centre expects an uproar in Parliament over the issue during the budget session which begins on Monday.

Food and civil supplies minister Sharad Yadav has advised temporary withdrawal of ISI certification till stringent norms are implemented, sources close to the minister said.

Yadav has requested his health ministry counterpart to amend the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules to enable the Bureau of Indian Standards to implement the necessary changes.

Though only .095 per cent of people in the country drink packaged and mineral water, their power, class and reach are too intimidating for the government and the political establishment to ignore.

Soon after reports appeared in the press about the presence of pesticides in mineral and packaged water, Yadav set up a high-level committee of top officials of the civil supplies and health ministries and an independent scientist to inquire into the findings of the Centre for Science and Environment.

In a letter to health minister Sushma Swaraj yesterday, the food and civil supplies minister said the technical committee of the standards bureau reviewed the Indian standards at its meetings of February 7 and 8 and recommended amendments to align the standards with European Union norms.

Consumer affairs secretary Wajahat Habibullah has said if the sale of bottled water already in the market poses no danger, then no action will be taken.

“But if we find even a minor threat to public health, the licence (of companies) will be withdrawn till new standards are adhered to,” the consumer affairs secretary added.

A decision on the issue, he said, will be taken in a day or two, as the standards bureau has come up with new standards.

Even a temporary cancellation of licence will effectively mean withdrawing the bottled water already released in the market, Habibullah said.

Experts in the standards bureau, he said, are considering a number of issues, including the likelihood of giving the companies time to adopt the new standards once these are notified or implementing the standards immediately.

“We have already arrived at the new standards. The only question remaining is their immediate implementation or time gap for adaptation. The answer to this hinges on hazards to public health,” the consumer affairs secretary added.

For now, however, it is felt there is no immediate danger to the people and the pesticide traces found in bottled water are within the limits set by the World Health Organisation, he said.

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