National paper the Shanghai Daily reported that the country’s General Administration of Quality, Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine tested a batch of Evian shipped over from France by a Beijing-based importer.
But according to the paper, quality inspectors decided to class the water among 209 imported food and cosmetic items found to be substandard.
Accordingly, none of the water was allowed onto the Chinese market, but (along with the other products) was either shipped back to exporters, destroyed or diverted to other uses, the source said.
WHO vs. Chinese standards
The latest incident follows a similar rejection in November – when a batch of Evian was denied entry on similar grounds – and the destruction of 80 tonnes of mineral water in January by a local authority. Another incident dates back to 2007.
Danone had not responded to request for comment as BeverageDaily.com went to press, but Shanghai Daily cited the company defending itself upon the basis that Evian adhered to World Health Organisation (WHO) standards for nitrite content, which differed from local standards.
In 2006 the World Health Organization (WHO) determined acceptable daily intake (ADI) nitrate and nitrite amounts for adults as 0-5 and 0-0.4 mg kg of body weight respectively.
In a 2011 study on nitrate and nitrite levels in Turkish packaged natural spring and mineral water – which found that samples were consistent with international standards – Atasoy et al. explained that underground water sources were at risk of contamination.
Risk of contamination
Nitrates were naturally present in water, the study said, but higher levels indicated contamination, whether from human or animal waste, fertilizers, septic tanks or sewage disposal.
Although not a direct toxicant in itself, nitrate was linked to a range of human health problems on conversion to nitrite, the researchers explained, where the latter can form N-nitroso compounds that are “probably carcinogenic” in humans
Excessive nitrate intake could cause ‘blue-baby syndrome’ – where infants had reduced ability to take oxygen – the researchers said, while they could suffer acute nitrite toxicity if they were fed formula containing water high (>10 ppm) of nitrates (Self and Qwaskom 1998).
Others at risk groups from excess nitrates in drinking water were pregnant women, individuals with reduced gastric acidity and those with genetic deficiencies relating to specific enzymes, Atasoy et al. added.