Researchers from C-crest Laboratories in Montreal bought and tested several different popular brands of bottled water and found that many of them had heterotrophic bacteria counts that were “surprisingly high.” Heterotrophic bacteria require an organic carbon source in order to grow.
More than 70 per cent of popular brands they tested did not meet the standards set out by the United States Pharmacopeia, a non-governmental agency that sets safety standards for medications and health care products. No more than 500 colony forming units (cfu) of bacteria per millilitre should be present in drinking water, according to the USP. “Heterotrophic bacteria counts in some of the bottles were found to be in revolting figures of 100 times more than the permitted limit,” said Sonish Azam, a researcher on the study, in a news release. ”Some brands had as much as 70,000 cfu per millimetre”, Azam said.
The average number of colony forming units in tap water samples they tested in order to compare results was 170 per millimetre, she said. “Despite having the cleanest tap water, a large number of urban Canadians are switching over to bottled water for their daily hydration requirements,” Azam said.
Although researchers didn’t find any pathogens in the bottled water, they said the high bacteria counts mean that Canadian regulations should be stricter, just in case.
The researchers, who work in a pharmaceutical lab, got the idea for the study after fellow employees complained that bottled water tasted bad and made them sick. According to Azam, Health Canada hasn’t set an allowable limit for heterotrophic bacteria in bottled water, and neither has the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Their intention is to change Canadian regulations, said researcher Ali Khamessan, and not point the at finger as specific companies. Researchers presented their results at the general meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in San Diego. “Bottled water is not expected to be free from microorganisms but the [colony forming unit count] observed in this study is surprisingly very high,” Azam said. “Therefore, it is strongly recommended to establish a limit for the heterotrophic bacteria count as well as to identify the nature of microorganisms present in the bottled water. This kind of bacteria doesn’t normally cause any disease in healthy people, but could make pregnant women, infants and the elderly sick”, she said.
In addition to the possible negative health effects of bottled water, there is growing concern worldwide about its impact on our environment and society. Following are some links for additional information. We urge you to do your own research and make informed decisions about your choices.