French water fails Shanghai purity test

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 May, 2007, 12:00am

Shanghai has rejected 118 tonnes of upmarket Evian mineral water due to high levels of bacteria, but French producer Danone said yesterday that differing standards between the mainland and Europe were responsible.

The Shanghai Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau rejected the importation of five shipping containers of water in February for exceeding mainland standards for microbial flora, Danone China confirmed.

It plans to return the water to France. 'We respect and will adhere to local regulation, but we need to reassure consumers that the microbial flora, naturally present in natural water, are totally safe for health,' Danone said.

The high level of publicity accorded the case on the mainland this week might be a signal that Beijing plans to scrutinise foreign companies along with domestic ones in its latest push to improve food and drug safety. Beijing is facing international pressure after pet food, toothpaste and cough syrup containing harmful mainland ingredients were found overseas.

The mainland's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine cited the Evian violation on a March list of 358 food and cosmetic items from foreign countries that failed to meet quality standards. The administration said tests showed the water contained 5,080 colony-forming units (a measure of bacteria) per gram. A Shanghai newspaper said that was 100 times the acceptable level. Danone said it was in full compliance with EU and World Health Organisation standards - which apply in Hong Kong - for unprocessed mineral water. It added that the Hong Kong market was unaffected. Danone sells 1.5 million bottles of Evian water a year in 40 countries.