What's usually on your 'to avoid' list when you're making a train journey in India? If you are very anxious about your health, you possibly try avoiding unpackaged cooked food, cut fruits, fried stuff etc. Now add bottled water to that list.
Samples of bottled Rail Neer water collected from Bharuch station in Gujarat have failed tests conducted by the Baroda Food and Drug Authority. "Water from the samples was found to be high in aerobic microbial count -- 39 cfu/ml (colony forming units/millilitre) as against the maximum permissible value of 20 cfu/ml," reports Mumbai Mirror.
Mirror quotes Dr AK Gavalani, who handles gastrointestinal diseases in KEM Hospital, Mumbai as saying, "High micro bacterial levels in water may lead to diarrhoea, gastroenteritis, stomach ache, vomiting etc."
However, IRCTC defended the quality of water and maintained that it was completely safe to drink Rail Neer water. "The packed water bottles are dispatched for distribution only after they have been tested at our internal plant laboratory to ensure the chemical and microbial parameters are within the limits as per BIS norms," said Arvind Malkhede, group general manager of IRCTC, Western zone.
Rail Neer is a PPP initiative of the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) launched by the erstwhile UPA government. IRCTC has four plants across the country.
A Business Standard report says, "IRCTC produces 610,000 litres of bottled water every day at its four plants in Nangloi, Danapur, Palur and Ambernath, against the daily requirement of 2.5 million litres."
The IRCTC website lists out the processes involved in treatment of water before it is bottled for sale. It begins with saying, "Water drawn from bore wells is stored in an underground reservoir and pumped to the treatment plant designed, engineered and installed by M/s ION Exchange (India) Ltd., the market leaders in the field of water treatment with well over 37 years of experience."
It then goes on to detail the various steps involved in bottling water, complete with snapshots.
However, concerns about bottled water in India is not restricted to just Rail Neer. In 2013, a test conducted by an independent research organisation found that consuming drinking water bottled by various leading private companies had potential health risks.
A Daily Mail report says, "The tests were conducted by an NGO in a National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) recognised testing facility."
It added that brands like Bailley, McDowell's, Kingfisher, Royal Blue and Crystal+ didn't meet the standards set by the Indian Standards (IS) in the microbiological test. The report adds that consuming such water could lead to nausea, vomiting and stomach cramps.
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