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BBC exposé of bottled water contamination

Press release 15 December 2005

A new report by BBC TV News and BBC2's Working Lunch has exposed the alarming fact that waters packaged in plastic bottles can absorb contamination from the surrounding environment. The report which showed that bottled waters absorbed unacceptable amounts of chemicals from mothballs in just a few weeks, strengthens the argument that bottled waters should not be promoted for use with babies and should carry clear warnings.

Under EU legislation governments can permit bottled waters to carry a positive ‘suitable for infant feeding' claim but the UK does not yet allow this.  However, it is under pressure from the booming multimillion dollar industry to allow such a claim.  Baby Milk Action has been advocating that instead of allowing bottled waters to carry a positive claim of suitability, products which are NOT suitable for infants should be required to carry a warning to this effect. In the light of this new evidence, which the industry admits it is aware of, all bottled waters should also carry clear warnings about the risks of inappropriate storage.  There is a possibility that the EU commission may ban such a warning as a barrier to trade.

There are multiple risks in allowing a positive ‘suitability for infants' claim. Aside from the inherent risks of the water itself, parents may be led to believe that the product is better than tap water, they may assume the water is sterile and safe to use without boiling and that it is good to give babies water.  In fact babies need nothing other than breastmilk (or properly constituted infant formula) for the first six months of life. The promotion of bottled water for babies inevitably undermines the practice of exclusive breastfeeding and promotes the unnecessary use of expensive and environmentally harmful  products.  

Patti Rundall, Policy Director of Baby Milk Action says:

“This report highlights the general lack of safety data and gaps in safeguards regarding contamination. The food and drink industry deliberately and consistently refuses to  alert people to the inherent risks of their products. Artificially-fed babies are already immune compromised and could be consuming these products as a sole food for many months at a crucial age of development. The cumulative effects of multiple exposures to tiny amounts of different chemicals and contaminants will only be apparent after what is effectively a mass uncontrolled trial, without informed parental consent."

See the policy section for Baby Milk Action's submissions to the Food Standards Agency and past press releases for other stories about contamination, the promotion of bottled water for infants and the environmental impact of the bottled water industry .

Note: The UK Food Standards Agency has tested 15 brands of bottled water. Six, including Nestlé's Buxton water, exceeded the recommended limit of uranium for infants. (FSA(TOX/2005/27), Mail on Sunday, 22.10.05) (See Update 37 for links)

For more information contact:

Patti Rundall: 07786 523493
or Mike Brady: 07986 736179.

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