« In Brazil, some publications turn to newsgames to lure readers | Main | How fracking caused 109 earthquakes in Ohio town »


In India, bottled water may not offer protection from Delhi belly

It’s been a forgettable year for India tourism.

When foreign media aren’t reporting on gang rapes and sexual assaults in the country of 1.2 billion, journalists are documenting the freefalling Indian economy.

Now for some more sour news for every visitor to sprawling India who carefully avoids ice in their drinks, believing that avoiding tap water will help them avoid awkward cases of travelers diarrhea: bottled water may not help prevent Delhi belly.

According to a report in The Times of India, as much as 20 per cent of bottled water tested in New Delhi during 2010-11 and 2011-12 failed quality testing. The results were revealed last week by consumer affairs minister K V Thomas in a written reply to a question posed in Indian parliament,  Lok Sabha.

At least 23 of 190 samples in the national capital region failed and the licences of two bottled water companies were revoked.

Bacteria-laden bottled water might sound familiar. In the Academy Award-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire, one of the young characters lands a job at a restaurant, filling water bottles up with tap water, and then using a glue to fix the top it in place and making it seem like a new bottle.

“I have also seen young boys filing up 25 litre Bisleri and Kinley bottles from the roadside taps,” notes one Times of India reader.

So what's a tourist to do?

The Website Matadornetwork.com offers a few pointers that may help avoid a bad stomach bug. Its best advice: avoid fish you don't see caught and cooked; avoid eggs and cheese; and wash your hands regularly.

Rick Westhead is a foreign affairs writer at The Star. He was based in India as the Star’s South Asia bureau chief from 2008 until 2011 and reports on international aid and development. Follow him on Twitter @rwesthead



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I've been to India twice and have been all over asia. The best advice I can give would-be travelers is... wait for it... drink bottled beer! It's processed in facilities that require to meet international standards (since they get imported here), and they're guaranteed to be safe!

I think an easier solution is: DON'T GO TO INDIA. Even my friends from India don't really want to go there.

Having spent some time in India, I've watched kids get access to new bottles and fresh caps where the "seal" can still be broken, but the water inside be anything but clean. I used a UV sterilizer on a trip (steripen was the brand I believe) and not once did anyone get sick except the one day we forgot it at the hotel. Worked great!

India is a superpower and will be a permanent member of the security council soon. Our economy is already the third biggest in the world. The cheap propaganda in foreign media is financed by Pakistan. India does not have a rape problem. US has more rapes daily than India. Indian is literally lower on the sexual crime index.

Guaranteed the same thing is happening in China. Both places are like playing the lottery when it comes to food, a lottery you don't want to win.

Makes one seriously wonder how many of these marvellous sanitary customs are brought out of India to other places in the world. Thanks, so much.

Recently saw a report about the quality of bottled water in Canada . A lab based in Montreal tested about 10 different types of bottled water available and found that 70% of them contained harmful bacteria and tap water was found to be safer than most of them !!!
Thing again ? Absolutely .

I'm currently in India. I bought two bottles of mineral water. As the train departed and I noticed an awful taste in the water, I looked at the other bottle and saw that the cap was already broken. I got scammed once again in India! I was sold the normal dirty tap water!

Maybe someday they'll start testing our bottled water in Canada and posting the results. I'd bet they will encounter similar findings. A lot of bottled water sold her is just tap water.

Better yet...don't visit India unless you absolutely have to!

The comments to this entry are closed.

The World Daily

  • The Star's foreign desk covers the best stories from the around the globe, updated throughout the day.