Bacteria In Bottled Mineral Water
Bottled mineral water may be responsible for thousands of cases of food poisoning, a study suggests.
Researchers say up to 6,000 infections a year by the bug campylobacter, the biggest cause of food-borne infection in Britain, could be traced to the bottled waters that are a regular part of many Britons' diet.
The bacteria cause diarrhoea and stomach aches, and in rare cases can be fatal. Despite the frequency of poisonings, more than 60 per cent of the 50,000 campylobacter infections a year are at the moment unexplained.
But scientists have found that bottled water may be a primary cause of infection. Other suspects are salad vegetables such as tomato and cucumber.
The scientists, led by Dr Meirion Evans, from the University of Wales in Cardiff, wrote in the American journal Emerging Infectious Diseases: "Eating chicken is a well-established risk factor, but consuming salad and bottled water are not.
"The association with salad may be explained by cross-contamination of food within the home, but the possibility that natural mineral water is a risk factor for campylobacter infection could have wide public health implications."
The scientists interviewed 213 campylobacter patients and 1,144 other people who complained of stomach problems but were not infected by campylobacter about their behaviour before they visited the doctor. Bottled water accounted for 12 per cent of the cases studied, salad 21 per cent and chicken 31 per cent.
Natural mineral water is obtained from springs or boreholes. Under European legislation, mineral water must be free from parasites and other infectious organisms but, unlike tap water, it cannot be treated in any way that might alter its chemical composition.
The researchers said organisms could survive for a long time, particularly in uncarbonated water.
The scientists added: "To our knowledge, campylobacter has not been identified in mineral water, but this may simply be because testing for campylobacter is rarely undertaken.
"Mineral water has, however, been identified in the past as a vehicle of transmission during a cholera epidemic, and as a potential source of typhoid fever in travellers."