By Dr Saurabh Arora*
We think that packaged drinking water is safe for consumption. But there have been a plethora of cases where the Bureau of Indian Standards and Food Safety and Standards Authority of India(FSSAI) undertook periodic collection of drinking water from the market and found the presence of heavy metals, microbiological organisms and pesticide residue in water. The investigations led to suspension of the unit’s license and heavy penalties too. Amid this what concerns the most is laxity in safety standards at the filling area of packaging units and in several inspections of groundwater which was bottled without any purification or processing and sold at high prices. In several cases packaging units were also running without the mandatory licenses and companies selling water without the BIS certification.
The rising cases of water borne disease led consumers to buy packaged drinking water with a belief that it will be safe for them. Moreover, packaged drinking water has become a necessity especially while traveling. So it is very important that it complies with the regulatory standards and is tested periodically to ensure the safety of consumers as well as the smooth functioning of manufacturers and retailers business.
A glimpse at FSSAI’s recent guidelines;
Recently, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has drawn reference to the direction issued vide File No. SS-M015/1/2022-Standard- FSSAI dated 30.05.2022 operationalizing Draft Food Safety and Standards (Food Product Standards and Food Additives) Amendment Regulations w.r.t. the values of Total Dissolved Solids, Calcium and Magnesium.
Notably, in partial modification, it has been decided that implementation date of the above direction will be from 01.01.2023 and no further extension beyond 01.01.2023 shall be provided.
Some of the Salient Features of the Standards laid down by the BIS are as follows:
The standard prescribes the use of colorless and transparent containers.
The standard also prescribes hygienic conditions, which are required to be followed during the collection, processing, handling, packing and marketing of processed water.
The standard prescribes that the packaged water is to be labeled properly.
The standard prescribes that the Shelf Life of the product shall be declared and marked on the product by the manufacturer based on testing done by an approved lab.
The Food Business Operators (FBOs) need to obtain prior certification from the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) before applying for an FSSAI license. Moreover, the packaged drinking water needs to conform to guidelines issued both by the FSSAI and BIS.Packaged drinking water is nowadays purified by reverse osmosis coupled with UV irradiation to meet the prescribed standards and packed before distribution.
It is indispensable that the packaged drinking water samples need to be tested at regular intervals from an FSSAI notified laboratory in order to maintain uniformity in quality and prevent batch to batch variation.
Mandatory packaged drinking water testing
In recent years awareness about food safety and water quality has increased and accordingly the standards for packaged drinking water have been updated by BIS. All packaged water manufacturers must be in compliance with the latest standards. BIS has specified mandatory testing of packaged drinking water and the entire production must conform to the Indian Standards if it carries the ISI mark.
Packaged Drinking Water Testing for Control Units
The quantity of packaged drinking water treated/processed from the same processing line and filled/packed in one day, makes up one Control Unit. BIS standards state that the entire Control Unit will be held for 48 hours, before despatch, so as to confirm that the Control Unit conforms to all requirements and if any non-conformity is reported with regard to microbiological requirements then the entire Control Unit will not be dispatched.
The Control Unit will either be rejected or re-processed and complete investigation of the reasons for contamination and non-conformity to microbiological requirements will be investigated. The packaged drinking water can only be dispatched after five consecutive testing reports show satisfactory results. Manufacturers need to keep complete records of such instances for review by BIS.
Requirements for Testing Source Water
The source water used in the production of Packaged Drinking Water may be initially tested for
Colour, Odour, Taste, Turbidity, pH, Total Dissolved Solids,
Microbiological and Chemical requirements including Toxic Elements and Pesticides Residues and Radioactive Residues.
Subsequently, the quality needs to be assessed regularly, once in three months. The source water will be tested again for such parameters that are not in the conformance of IS 14543.
In case non-conformity is observed for radioactive residues, the source of raw water shall be abandoned and packaged water shall be recalled immediately.
If the source of the water is changed or there is an addition of new raw water BIS must be intimated and the raw water collected from the new source will need testing for IS 14543 specifications and the report submitted to BIS for approval before production and marking with ISI certification.
In case there is remineralization as part of the water treatment process the ingredients must conform to food grade/pharma grade quality.
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*A prolific inventor, pharmacist, scientist, technophile, and visionary entrepreneur. He has been leading the contract, testing, certification, and research business at Arbro and Auriga since 2005 with labs in seven locations. Invented, patented, and commercialized SNEC 30, a scientifically advanced curcumin supplement; Founder of Food Safety Helpline; Founder and Mentor of Lab-Training.com