ISI marked water pouches found unsafe

60% brands failed tests; water in pouches contaminated with bacteria 


It is a common sight to see water bottles and pouches being sold by vendors on the roadside, in shops and eateries, at bus stops and railway stations. Packaged drinking water is water from any source, which has been treated and disinfected to make it fit for human consumption, and then packaged in bottles or pouches.

Water pouches banned in Ahmedabad

The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation announced a complete ban on production and use of packaged water pouches on 5 June 2018. Our testing of water pouches was conducted much before the ban was announced.

It is compulsory for all processing units to obtain the ISI mark from the Bureau of India Standards (BIS). However, illegal units do thrive across the country, endangering people’s health. Water contamination can be physical, chemical and microbiological. Consumers may catch all types of diseases if water is contaminated, more so in summer when the consumption is high. In fact, nearly 80% of the diseases in India are waterborne.

Standards set

BIS has published two Indian Standards for Packaged Drinking Water namely IS:13428 for Packaged Natural Mineral Water and IS:14543 for Packaged Drinking Water (Other Than Packaged Natural Mineral Water). Both the products are under mandatory certification.

The standard IS: 14543 prescribes the hygienic practices to be followed in respect of collecting water, its treatment, bottling, storage, packaging, transport, distribution and sale for direct consumption, so as to guarantee a safe, hygienic and wholesome product.

CERC’s findings on bottled water

CERC test findings on bottled water in 1998 created ripples in the country. They were published in Insight (January-February 1998), the first issue of the magazine. The shocking findings were discussed in Parliament, including the urgent need to revise standards. CERC tested eight brands of drinking water and five of mineral water, including many reputed brands. The findings revealed that only three brands conformed to the standards out of the 13 tested. 

Our tests

CERC’s in-house laboratory tested 10 samples of branded water pouches collected from Ahmedabad city for two microbiology parameters – Aerobic Microbial Count and Coliform bacteria.

KEY FINDINGS (See table for detailed results)

  • Aerobic Microbial Count: Five samples of water pouches had total viable colony count more than the prescribed limit at 37°c and five samples cst1had total viable colony count higher than the prescribed limit at 20 to 22°c.

Significance of parameter: The Aerobic Microbial Count test determines the total number of aerobic bacteria and is an indication of the bacterial populations of any sample.

  • Coliform bacteria: As per the BIS limits, Coliform bacteria shall be absent in any 250 ml sample. One sample of water pouch had Coliform bacteria.

Significance of parameter: Coliform bacteria are important in quality control as they are  indicative of possible fecal contamination. Coliform bacteria can cause bloody diarrhoea, vomiting, gastroenteritis, urinary tract infections and typhoid.

Packaged Drinking_Page_1

All pouches carried the ISI mark. Only one pouch displayed batch number (Bac-free) and two had FSSAI manufacturing licence number (Aquata and ABM).  Three pouches mentioned the processing date and best before date (Fasters, Aquafeel and Bac-free). Ironically, seven brands mentioned: “Best before one month from date of processing/packing” but they did not mention the date of processing/packing itself!

Best Buy

Our Best Buy is Bac-free which obtained the highest Overall Score. Not only did Bac-free perform well in the microbiological parameters, it also got the highest labelling score. The label on the Bac-free pouch carried the manufacturing date, best before date and batch number. All this information is very important from the consumer’s viewpoint. The label on the Zion (which was ranked second) pouch had none of this information.

Areas of Action

  • Since all the pouches tested had ISI mark, but 60% failed to comply with the BIS standards, it raises the possibility of them being fake products or carrying false ISI labels. BIS should look into the matter urgently.
  • BIS should test samples at regular intervals to monitor quality to safeguard the health of consumers.
  • The regulatory authorities should take strict action against manufacturers who do not give the required labelling information.
  • Consumers should be made aware to avoid buying pouched drinking water and whenever possible opt for BIS certified bottled water which is likely to be safer.

Grahak Sathi’s conclusion

The demand for packaged drinking water, especially water pouches which are popular among low income groups, is rising. The regulatory and monitoring authorities should ensure that packaged water offered for sale is safe and free from harmful organisms.


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