17 Apr 2015

Contaminated bottled water: Pakistan

Different brands of mineral/bottled water are unsafe in Pakistan

Many different brands of mineral/bottled water are available in Pakistan. Monitoring of mineral/bottled water quality found some products to be contaminated with bacteria or to contain higher than permissible levels of chemicals (arsenic, potassium or sodium) [1]. Mineral/bottled water brands shown to be contaminated should be avoided.

In response to the poor quality of drinking water in Pakistan, the bottled water industry has grown, resulting in many different brands of mineral/bottled water being available.  The Government of Pakistan, though the Ministry of Science and Technology, has initiated a quarterly review of mineral/bottled water standards. Between January and March 2015, of the 71 brands sampled in seven cities (Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Tando Jam, Lahore, Quetta, Sialkot and Karachi), eight were found to be unsafe (five were chemically contaminated and three contained microbial contaminants) [1].

Advice for travellers

You should take food and water precautions when visiting countries where drinking water may be of poor quality. Bottled carbonated drinks are usually safe; however, you are advised to avoid mineral/bottled water brands that have been shown to be contaminated and not to rinse and reuse bottles shown to be contaminated in this report.

Brand names of the water found to be unsafe between January and March 2015 are: Al-Haider, Noble, Drop Ice, Al-Sana, Days Pure, Effort, Aqua Safe and Butt. Full details are available here.

Advice for health professionals

Although mineral/bottled water served in unopened factory produced cans or bottles can usually be considered to be safe, some brands tested have been shown to fall short of the required standard.  In addition to the chemicals in contaminated products, bottled water may contain bacteria that can cause diarrhoeal illness. Health professionals should be aware that ill travellers who have returned from Pakistan may have consumed mineral/bottled water that has been found to be chemically or bacteriologically unsafe and to investigate accordingly.

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