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Recall of Certain Bottled Mineral Water in the United States and Canada
(Updated on 12 March 2007)

Background

On 9 March 2007, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an update on the recent mineral water recall incident and continues to advise consumers not to drink several brands of “Jermuk” mineral water imported from Armenia due to the risk of exposure to arsenic. According to the FDA, they sampled 500 milliliter (mL) green glass bottles and detected the problem. The levels of arsenic detected ranged from 500 to 600 ppb, exceeding the international standard of 10 ppb. The FDA is investigating whether other sizes or packaging are involved.

Details of the affected products are as follows:-

  1. Labelled as "Jermuk Original Sparkling Natural Mineral Water Fortified With Natural Gas From The Spring". The product is additionally labelled as "2006 Jermuk Mayr Gortsaran CJSC" and "Imported by: Zetlian Bakery Inc.";
  2. Labelled as "Jermuk Sodium Calcium Bicarbonate and Sulphate Mineral Water." The product is additionally labelled as "Bottled by ARPI Plant, Republic of Armenia" and "Exclusive US importer and distributor: Importers Direct Wholesale Co., Los Angeles, CA";
  3. Labelled as "Jermuk, Natural Mineral Water Sparkling". The product is additionally labelled as "Bottled by Jermuk Group CJSC" and "Sale Agent Kradjian Importing Co. Inc".

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) issued a similar warning and advised the public not to consume two other brands of “Jermuk” mineral water. All sizes and codes of these products are affected:

  1. Labelled as “Jermuk Classic brand Naturally Sparkling Mineral Water”;
  2. Labelled as “Jermuk Classic brand Medicinal – Table Natural Mineral Water Sparkling”.

Actions Taken by the CFS

The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) has made an appeal to the trade to stop selling the same batch of affected products and the public not to consume them. The CFS will continue to closely monitor the situation and take action as appropriate.

What Is Arsenic?

Arsenic is a metalloid present naturally in the earth's crust and is found in trace amounts in rock, soil, water and air. It exists in both organic and inorganic forms in foods. Primary route of exposure in humans to arsenic is mainly through ingestion of foods, especially aquatic foods, which contain relatively high levels of arsenic.

Scientific evidence shows that low dosage of arsenic as low as a few grams could cause acute or sub-acute toxicity. In acute toxicity, the patient will suffer from severe inflammation of gastrointestinal tract, resulting in vomiting and diarrhoea, followed by more serious consequences such as multi-organ failure of the body. However, according to the FDA, there is little chance for a person who consumed the affected product over a brief period of time to become gravely ill. On the other hand, it is likely that person consuming the affected product would experience nausea, abdominal pain and possibly vomiting which are clear indicators of arsenic toxicity, and therefore FDA warned consumers that they should avoid ingestion of this bottled mineral water.

Chronic toxicity due to arsenic may lead to skin lesions, nerve damage, skin cancer and diseases of the blood vessels.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer under the WHO has classified arsenic in drinking water as carcinogenic to humans.

Advice to the Trade

  • Stop selling the affected products.

Advice to Consumers

  • Consumers who have purchased the affected products should stop consuming them.
  • Consumers who drank this water and have concerns are encouraged to seek medical advice.

Further Information

Further information about the incident can be obtained from the following webpages:

Centre for Food Safety
Food and Environmental Hygiene Department
12 March 2007

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