UAE supermarket recalls well-known bottled water brand

Dubai Municipality says it is 'monitoring' the brand as 500ml bottles are removed from Choithrams.

DUBAI // A supermarket chain has cleared its shelves of half-litre bottles of Masafi mineral water after it was found to contain unacceptable levels of a chemical produced in water treatment.
Choithrams, which has 25 branches nationwide, withdrew the bottles from a batch with a February 17 production date. Dubai Municipality said it had ordered a recall last month and an alert was issued last week by the Ministry of Environment and Water.
The ministry said "bromates in excess of the authorised level of 10 micrograms per litre" had been found in a water sample. A bromate is a chemical compound that can form during water purification.
Officials stressed that the increased bromate content had been found in only one bottle, and there was no risk to public health or safety.
The water company also said there was no danger. "Masafi bottled mineral water is safe for consumption and does not pose any health risks," a spokesman said.
Choithrams did not say how many bottles it had removed from its shelves or who had told it to do so. "These stocks have been pulled off our shelves till we await further clarity," said
Subhash K, the chain's retail marketing manager.
Dubai Municipality said yesterday it would "scrutinise" all water brands, after routine inspections last month found one, half-litre bottle of Masafi contained a level of bromate that was above the acceptable limit.
"We found it only in one bottle of 500ml," said Salem Mesmar, the municipality's assistant director general for environment, health and safety.
"We had to go for the second step and ask for five more samples," he said. The bromate content was within the permitted limit in other samples that were tested.
"This problem is now finished. But we are keeping an eye and monitoring Masafi and other water brands. This issue has been raised. It will not be forgotten," Mr Mesmar said.
The municipality said that in February it had ordered Masafi to recall all the bottles produced on February 17, even though it found the high bromate content in only one bottle.
"We called the factory in Ras Al Khaimah and asked them to recall. We informed the ministry so they can pass on the information to other municipalities," he said.
Dubai Municipality also ordered Masafi to ask all supermarkets to return the half-litre bottles produced on that particular date, Mr Mesmar said.
On Thursday, the ministry said it had found that the water sample in question contained 11 micrograms per million.
The municipality said drinking water usually contains the compound bromide, which alco occurs naturally in seawater and becomes bromate when mixed with ozone or chlorine during purification.
"drinking water that contains a negligible amount of bromates in excess of the level authorised does not constitute a direct risk to health," the ministry said.
Supermarket chains including Spinneys, Lulu and Al Maya said yesterday they had not received any notification from local authorities about the water recall.
Kamal Vachani, the director of Al Maya, said none of their stores had been supplied with the February 17 batch of Masafi bottles.
"We have not received any circular so far about recall of any brand," said V Nanda Kumar, head of communications at Lulu.

pkannan@thenational.ae