Articles about drinking water problems
Published on March 7, 2005 by Coastal Post - Bolinas,CA,USA
In February the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released its long anticipated report on the human health effects of perchlorates, a byproduct of rocket fuel. Perchlorates, which are a common pollutant near military sites, have recently been found in the water at concerning levels in 35 states as well as in 93% of lettuce and milk.
Published on Thursday, March 4, 2004 by Reuters
by Trevor Datson
LONDON - It made for great headlines, but the fact that the UK version of Coca-Cola's Dasani brand bottled water comes out of the London public supply should hardly have come as a surprise.
"Coke's in hot water," "Eau dear" and "The real sting" were three good examples of the newspaper headline writer's art, but the only real difference between Dasani and many other bottled waters is that the humble origin of the product is firmly in the spotlight.
Figures from independent beverage research company Canadian show that at least two out of every five bottles of water sold around the world are, like Dasani, "purified" waters, rather than "source" waters which originate from a spring.
Most of the supermarket own-label bottled waters consist of treated mains water. They may be de chlorinated, filtered further, purified using ultraviolet light and have minerals either added or subtracted. They may also be carbonated.
In short, they are subjected to many of the same treatments that source waters undergo to satisfy public health requirements after being pumped up from the ground.
Alongside flagship brands such as Evian, Perrier, and Malvern, most of the big-name water producers market several purified water lines, often in countries where the safety of the public water supply is a concern.
Nestle's Pure Life is one such leading brand and PepsiCo's Aquafina is another, while Danone's Sparkletts and Alhambra marques are top sellers in the United States, where mains water purity is not usually an issue.
You also have mixed source waters, like Nestle's Aquarel, which comes from seven different springs. Such spring water is cheaper to produce and therefore to sell, and has proved a big hit with consumers in Europe and elsewhere.
But generally speaking, anything that doesn't say "source" or "spring" on the label is just fancy tap water.
So why all the brouhaha over Dasani, a fairly typical product in a rapidly expanding market?
The origin of UK Dasani (it's produced all around the world but is always purified rather than source water) came to light when a complaint was made to the British Food Standards Agency over Coke's use of the word "pure" in its Dasani marketing.
The complaint, now being dealt with by the local authorities where Dasani is bottled in Sidcup, east London, hinges on the charge that the marketing implies that tap water is 'impure'.
As a market for bottled water, the UK is relatively immature. Britons consume an average of 28 litres of bottled water per year, compared with about 140 litres for Italy and France.
So the fact that bottlers take water, purify it further and sell it on can hit the headlines, especially if the water producers take a substantial mark-up in the process.
"Coke didn't do itself any favours by not getting the water supplier on side to begin with," one drinks industry insider said of the local supplier Thames Water.
Like Nestle, McDonald's and Cadbury Schweppes, Coke makes a gratifying target for journalists, in that all those companies trade heavily on their brand.
That makes them extremely vulnerable to criticism, as Coke already found to its cost with its failed "New Coke" launch.
YOU'RE NOT JUST BUYING WATER
Coca-Cola's seven million pound marketing drive for Dasani has taken a savage hit, but the success of the brand in other countries, such as the United States where it is the number two seller, suggests it isn't about to go away.
In the developing world you usually buy bottled water because it's clean, or because it doesn't taste of chlorine. In the west, it's a "lifestyle choice".
Most consumers in developed countries would accept that the water that comes out of their taps is clean enough and quite serviceable for cooking, washing or even drinking.
But just as a pair of supermarket own-brand running shoes will do the job, Nike, Reebok and Adidas can all charge top dollar for the kudos, the street cred, the style statement they make.
This is the essence of brand equity, and it's why consumers are happy to pay over the odds for Welsh TyNant water in Cyprus, or French Evian in the Peruvian Andes. It's also why the "water sommelier" has become a feature of upmarket U.S. restaurants.
"Branding does matter, even for a mundane product like water," Frits van Dijk, chief executive of Nestle Waters, said last year.
"We produce value-added waters. Marketing and R&D all have to be financed somehow and that's why you'll never see Nestle in the very low price market. It's not our territory."
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Story from NY Times
By ALAN COWELL
LONDON, March 19 - Only weeks after it introduced Dasani bottled water into Britain, the Coca-Cola Company ordered a recall of some 500,000 bottles on Friday after finding excess levels of bromate.
The chemical, with long-term exposure, has been linked to a higher risk of cancer.
Dasani is the second-biggest-selling bottled drinking water in the United States after Aquafina from PepsiCo Inc. Newspapers here mocked Coca-Cola for charging up to $1.80 for a small bottle of purified tap water when it was introduced in January.
A Coca-Cola spokesman at the company's headquarters in Atlanta, Kelly Brooks, declined to say how much the recall would cost. "The financial impact is not the issue at present," he said.
The recall is not on the same scale as one in 1999, when Coca-Cola products were banned for 10 days in Belgium after 30 schoolchildren became sick after drinking Coca-Cola. The company later traced the contamination to a chemical used in the cleaning of transportation pallets. That recall cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars.
In London, Jonathan Chandler, the director of communications for Coca-Cola Europe, said the process used to purify Dasani water relied on calcium chloride, which contained levels of bromide. Bromide, in turn, produced traces of bromate during a part of the purification procedure, he said.
When stocks of purified water were tested last December before Dasani was introduced, Mr. Chandler said, the level of bromate was found to be within the permissible limit under British law of 10 parts per billion. In routine testing this week, however, the level was found to vary from 10 to 25 parts per billion.
There had been no customer complaints, Mr. Chandler said. "There was no signal until we did the routine tests," he said. Mr. Chandler declined to say when Dasani would be re-introduced. "Our first priority is to withdraw the product," he said.
Mr. Chandler said the bottles pulled back from stores under the current recall would be destroyed.
The Food Standards Agency of Britain said bromate "is a chemical that could cause an increased cancer risk as a result of long-term exposure, although there is no immediate risk to public health."
Coca-Cola said the withdrawal began on Friday and would be about 85 percent complete within 24 hours.
Only the British market was reported to be affected among the 20 countries where Dasani is sold. Still, it is unclear how the withdrawal might affect Coke's position in the booming European bottled water market as a whole.
William P. Pecoriello, an analyst with Morgan Stanley in New York, said the withdrawal could embolden Coca-Cola's rivals, like Nestlé, which produces Perrier water, to disparage the brand in other parts of the Europe.
"This could damage Coke's ability to re launch Dasani in the U. K. as Nestlé and other players will likely take this opportunity to remind consumers that they are selling spring water vs. the purified tap water Coke is selling,"
Mr. Pecoriello wrote in a report. " This could have implications for the Dasani brand in France," where it is to be introduced in April.
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Story from the March 26, 2004 edition - http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0326/p07s01-woeu.html
In a land where babies drink Evian and consumers pay a premium for 'natural,' revelations about chemical content threatens to sink a US brand.
By Peter Ford
PARIS - "Waiting for Dasani..."
That has been the slogan, full of anticipation, on the French website of America's second biggest bottled water brand, as Coca Cola prepared to roll out its latest transAtlantic assault on the land of Perrier and Evian next month.
Now, it seems, the French will have to wait a bit longer. Coca-Cola announced Wednesday that it was indefinitely postponing Dasani's launch in both France and Germany in the wake of a public-relations fiasco that has focused fresh attention on what those handy little bottles of water actually contain.
Score one to the French, then, as they battle to defend their precious food and drinks industry against an American invasion that has swept the country with Coke and Big Macs?
Not really. The US beverage giant appears, rather, to have shot itself in the foot as it sought a niche in a connoisseur's market.
Coca-Cola's European retreat comes in the wake of a disastrous introduction of Dasani in Great Britain, where one embarrassing revelation after another has polluted the Continental market.
First, it was discovered that Dasani, marketed as "pure, still water" and sold for 95 pence ($1.74) a half liter, was simply a treated version of tap water from Sidcup (a bedroom community southeast of London), for which local residents pay a nickel.
"Eau Dear," punned one British tabloid headline writer.
But things got worse for Dasani's $13 million British marketing campaign. Last week, Coca-Cola hastily withdrew 500,000 bottles when it was discovered they contained nearly twice the legal amounts of a chemical that may cause cancers if consumed in large amounts. The company says it has no immediate plans for a re launch in Britain.
Though Coca-Cola initially said it would press ahead with plans to launch Dasani in France next month, and in Germany in May, it issued a statement Wednesday that "the timing is no longer considered optimal."
That was a major blow, considering that Coca-Cola is looking to water to refresh its sagging growth of carbonated drinks. In 2002, water accounted for 42 percent of its worldwide sales growth.
"They are right not to launch it now," says Jean Pierre Loisel, an expert in French consumer patterns. "Now everybody knows that behind the Dasani label is Coca-Cola. When people are looking for a healthy product they don't want it associated with Coke, which epitomizes the anti natural."
The French are very attached to their mineral water, drinking about 140 liters (roughly 37 gallons) a year each - about twice as much as Americans. They are also known to spray it on their faces (Evian sells vaporizers) and to give it to their babies: Evian sells a nipple attachment that fits onto its 33 cl bottles.
The French also like their mineral water to come from natural springs. Worldwide, 40 percent of bottled water is "purified" table water, rather than out of the earth, according to Canadian, an independent beverage-research company, but in France only a "negligible" amount is treated tap water, a company analyst says.
Of the 17 bottled waters at my supermarket, only one does not advertise itself as being natural mineral water or spring water.
Coca-Cola recognized that: The water for its Dasani bottles in France would have come from a spring in neighboring Belgium, unlike the treated tap water in Americans' Dasani bottles.
In Britain, the company took water that came out of the tap at its Sidcup plant and subjected it to sand, carbon, and micron filtration before putting it through reverse osmosis. That process, however, eliminates most of the minerals that make water water, so Coca-Cola added back calcium chloride to meet British water standards. The calcium chloride, the company explained, contained bromide that led to excess levels of bromate, which has been linked to cancer.
Coca-Cola insists that this was "an isolated and resolved incident," and there have been no signs of similar problems with any of the 1.3 billion liters of Dasani sold in America each year.
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