Bottled water leak reveals plans to question tap water safety

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Bottled water Water Drinking water

Leaked messages between PR professionals representing the Natural Hydration Council (NHC) have uncovered suggestions for promoting bottled water that include the dissemination of data undermining the safety of tap water.

Founded by Danone Waters, Nestlé Waters, and Highland Spring, the NHC says its mission is to communicate the facts about bottled water and promote its environmental, health, and other sustainable benefits.

But Scotland on Sunday published an article this weekend suggesting that the trade body plans to go beyond this brief and use scare tactic to promote bottled water.

E Coli contamination

The sister newspaper of the Scotsman published exerts from messages sent between PR professionals suggesting that data on the contamination of tap water could be useful for conversations with journalists.

The comments were made following the publication of a report by the Drinking Water Quality Regulator in Scotland. The revelation that two tap samples in Scotland were found to contain E Coli in 2008 sparked off a flurry of messages on how such information should be used.

Scotland on Sunday quoted Julie McGarvey, of PR agency 3XI, writing to James Laird, at Epicurus Communications, saying “Clock the E Coli data. Good to keep up our sleeve.”

Laird then responded saying the report contained information that could prove useful “should the media turn hostile to our cause”.

He added that there were potential sound-bite notes in the report that could be used for conversations with journalists when information is transmitted on condition that the name of the source is not published.


Beverage Daily contacted both 3XI and the NHC which both responded with the same statement denying any desire to attack tap water.

“The NHC advocates increased consumption of all water - be it from bottle or tap,”​ said the statement. “It was formed to communicate the facts and health benefits of bottled water and has no mission or desire, either publicly or privately to denigrate tap water.”

In the past the bottled water industry has been criticised in the press for creating products that are virtually indistinguishable from tap water, save for the plastic packaging. NHC was set to counter this perception and promote the benefits of bottled water.

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