After finding such large samples to be contaminated, FSSAI
launched cases against 131 manufacturers of these packaged water
bottles. In the end, 33 were convicted and penalties were imposed on 40. The minister did not elaborate on the nature of the penalties.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), which is the regulator for ensuring food quality, states “No person shall manufacture, sell or exhibit for sale packaged drinking water
and mineral water except under Bureau of Indian Standards
(BIS) certification mark”.
According to FSSAI
guidelines, packaged water
is deemed safe if, after being procured from sources, it is disinfected to a level where it does not adversely affect health. It can be disinfected by means of chemical agents or physical methods such as distillation, which will reduce the number of micro-organisms to a level scientifically acceptable for food safety.
Manufacturers were not just guilty of producing contaminated water
by not following the prescribed standards, some were even found to be flouting Bureau of Indian Standards
(BSI) ‘Standard Mark’ guidelines. As per the government, the BIS has received 55 complaints in the past three years. Till February 2018, twenty-three complaints about packaged drinking water
were established and action taken. Complaints were also received over misuse of BIS mark by the sellers.
Chaudhary said that cases of packaged drinking water
sold without BIS mark have come to FSSAI's notice and strict action has been advised under the penal provisions of Food Safety and Standards Act.
As per the BIS Act of 2016, goods notified by the central government under compulsory BIS Certification when sold without the standard mark, constitute a cognisable offence on the part of the vendor.
The possibility of the presence of several heavy metals beyond permissible limits and also essential minerals missing in the contents came forward, following which discreet raids were conducted.
Following investigation, 192 search-and-seizure operations were conducted at the bottling units during the past three years and in the current year, till February.
When asked if the government is planning to ban the sale of drinking water
in plastic pouches, which is hazardous for both health and environment reasons, the minister said strict norms are laid down regarding packaging material.
Chaudhary also emphasized that the FSSAI
had launched an online safe water web portal where consumers can compare test reports of packaged drinking water
including physical, chemical and microbiological information. This aims to use this portal as a confidence building exercise emphasising that the consumers have the right to know the quality of the packaged water
they are drinking, he added.