The statement, issued by the Ministry the Health on July 27, states that five bottled water companies -- Buzada, Alps, Kervansaray, Yalısu and Erpınar -- were found to be selling products that are harmful to human health. The ministry said it will continue to expose bottled water firms that are risking the public’s well-being.
Consumer Rights Association President Turhan Çakar said consumers trust neither the tap water nor the drinking water sold in carboys, and called for an end to the commercialization of water. He listed his association’s demands as the following:
Municipalities should do an accredited laboratory analysis of samples of both tap water and selected brands of bottled water every week, and the results should be announced on billboards and in public transportation stations, and sent to consumer associations, trade associations and other related institutions; municipalities should set up a team to clean the water tanks in apartments for free; and, most importantly, officials from the Ministry of Health and the Provincial Health Directorate should regularly examine carboys and the resources from where carboys are filled with water.
Çakar also said that his association had informed the prime minister, the parliament speaker, the health minister and the interior minister about their demands through letters.
The Ministry of Health heeded the call and announced this week that it has appointed 1,200 supervising personnel to analyze the production standards of water companies. The personnel will check certain criteria, including whether the companies are operating in hygienic conditions, whether uncertified spring water is added and whether unauthorized cleaning products are used while washing carboys.
Çakar reflected the public’s disappointment over the recent news revealing unsafe levels of bacteria in water in carboys: “There has been an excessive number of increase in the number of people using water in carboys for drinking and using in the preparation of meals due to the negative results of some previous analyses on tap water as well as the disturbing smell of tap water. This increase is a result of people’s rising mistrust of tap water. Also, people have to pay great prices for bottled water or water in carboys just to meet their most basic need. However, now that they see that the water in carboys is also unsafe, consumers feel like they have come to a deadlock, because they trust neither tap water nor water in carboys.
“They call our association to ask for a solution to this problem. We want our tap water that is presented for our use to be fully trustworthy,” said Çakar and added that the companies in the bottled water sector, of which a majority are owned by foreign companies, should not exploit people’s needs, and people’s mistrust of tap water should not be taken advantage of.
“According to a study conducted in 2008, 75 percent of locals in İstanbul and almost 30 percent of locals in Ankara consume water in carboys for drinking and for using in meals. This result indicates that water is becoming increasingly commercialized. Unless the state provides full credibility for tap water and tap water continues to be unsafe to drink, people will be bound to buy bottled water at high prices.”
Meanwhile, Consumers Association (TÜDER) Honorary President Engin Başaran says that following the Ministry of Health’s statement, which indicated that bottled water firms are putting public health at risk, consumers are confused and have lost their trust in bottled water.
Mentioning the results of an analysis conducted by Calibration and Experiment Laboratories Association (TURKLAB), Başaran said that after analyzing water in 55 carboys -- each of which contains 19 liters of water -- from various water companies, 14 of them were found to match health criteria. Among the other 41 carboys that were found unhealthy, water in 20 carboys was polluted while being filled, and water in the remaining 21 carboys was found to contain excessive amounts of bacteria. This result has shown to what extent our health is under threat, Başaran said.
He also added that food safety is the biggest problem for consumers in Turkey, and as long as transparency in informing consumers well about what they should be careful about is not achieved, food lobbies will continue controlling the food sector. “I call on the Ministry of Health, NGOs and government institutions to seek a common solution for this problem, and I want to remind them that this is a requirement of participatory democracy. After all, nothing should be more important than human health,” he underlined.