Thursday, January 03, 2013

Bottled water 'less safe' than tap (despite costing up to 1,000 times more)

It's the one accessory that no health-conscious fitness enthusiast is seen without. And the benefits of bottled water are so valued that it costs up to 1,000 times more than what comes out of our taps.

But far from being healthier, the bottled variety is subject to far less stringent safety tests than tap water.  It is also much more likely to be contaminated or become a source of infection, according to a university study.

The warning suggests that much of the £1.5billion-plus Britons pay for bottled water each year in the belief that it is better for us is spent mistakenly.

On average, we drink 33 litres of bottled water annually, whether ordinary mineral, fizzy, or ‘purified’ tap water.

Almost a quarter of people who drink bottled water at home say they do so because they believe it is ‘better for them’ than tap water, according to market researchers Mintel.

But what these consumers may not realise is that tap water must be checked daily under a rigorous inspection regime.

It also contains trace amounts of chlorine that prevent the spread of anything harmful such as bacterial infections.

By contrast, makers of bottled water are only required to undertake monthly testing at source. Once filled and sealed, a bottle of water might remain in storage for months before it is sold. Bottled water contains no  disinfecting additives such as chlorine.

After a bottle of water is  opened it has no way of remaining sterile, and so must be drunk within days.

Professor Paul Younger of Glasgow University said: ‘Water coming from UK taps is the most stringently tested in the world.

‘People think there must be something wrong with tap water because it is so cheap and plentiful. But from a safety and price perspective, tap water is better for you.

‘If the bottle is accidentally opened or someone tampers with it, then it can easily get contaminated,’ added Prof Younger, who is the author of Water: All That Matters.

‘There’s certainly a greater chance you could find something harmful in bottled water than from your taps.

‘Ideally it should be drunk on the day it is opened, as it can easily pick up bacteria from someone’s hands or face.’

Sue Pennison of the Drinking Water Inspectorate, which audits household supplies, said out of more than four million samples of tap water last year, 99.96 per cent passed strict standards.

She said: ‘Tap water is safe to drink, everything else is a personal lifestyle choice.’

Jo Jacobius, director of British Bottled Water Producers, said all water available in the UK is ‘highly regulated and generally of good quality’.  She added that most bottled water companies test on a daily basis.

Natural bottled mineral water must come from an officially recognised underground spring, be bottled at source and cannot be treated or filtered.

Spring water must also be bottled at source, but it can be treated or filtered.

Sourced from rivers, boreholes and springs, tap water is treated and put into supply or held via storage reservoirs.


Food faddists deprive their children

As well as being a pain in the behind

BEING a relatively new mother, I thought it would be great to throw a party to celebrate my two-year-old's birthday. Unfortunately I hadn't realised birthday parties are no longer the junk food fests of my youth.

Having been up since 4am baking, I perhaps wasn't in the best mood to have my shortcomings as a hostess commented on by a mother whose daughter attends "enhanced play sessions" and "creative gymkhana classes".

Things started well: children piled in, helped themselves to cupcakes, hit one another with balloons and consumed half their body weight in fairy bread. Then Botox-mother sidled up and whispered, "I've never had to deal with this before". "Deal with what?" I asked. She hissed, "Junk food."

I looked at the table covered in half-eaten cake and sticky fingerprints. "There's fruit kebabs," I protested.

"Yes, with marshmallows."

I said she could have given her daughter some of the bread. "It's white," she said as if I'd offered cocaine.

"And the honey?"

"Not organic."

Apparently I'd committed the ultimate faux pas in the eastern suburbs: I'd thrown a birthday party that did not cater for the gluten-free, lactose-intolerant, no-dairy-before-5pm, nuts-are-evil brigade. I'd gone for brightly coloured food with a dangerously high amount of fat and coma-inducing quantities of sugar. My card was marked.

"It's not done," she said, pointing at me with a manicured finger. For her daughter's party, she had hired a nutritionist and buckwheat pancakes, organic muesli with goat's yoghurt (low fat) and rye bread with (no sugar) jam was the fare. And to drink? Water with a slice of lemon.

"Did your son enjoy the food?" I asked a friend who attended the nutritionally healthy party. "Hell, no. He kept asking why there wasn't any cake and who'd hidden all the sweets."

As I watched this mother and daughter leave , I felt desperately sorry for the little girl who will never know what it feels like to eat so much cake that you feel sick or to drink so much cordial that you spin round and round in a circle until you throw up in a heap. Buckwheat pancakes have their place but maybe not at a two-year-old's birthday party.


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