An Action News Special Report
A Surprising Find in Bottled Water
October 14, 2004 — Some bottled water shipped to this area may contain a substance you probably don't want to ingest. What is it and why is the product still on store shelves?
Bottled water is now the second most popular beverage in the United States. Many of us drink it because we think it's safer, healthier than tap water. But are you wasting your money?
The bottle says Twin Mountain Natural Spring Water. But take a look at what else pours out.
George Henry/WEST OAK LANE:
"It is disgusting."
"You don't want to put stuff like this in your stomach."
The bottles are sealed and sold by the box so you can't inspect the water before buying. "It's upsetting."
Karla Green says her children drank some of the water before noticing anything might be wrong.
Karla Green/NORTHEAST PHILADELPHIA:
"I am worried. I'm worried because I don't know what it is."
Action News sent it to an independent lab for testing. So what is this black stuff? We heard back from the lab and the results? It is 3 different kinds of mold.
Dr. S. Michael Phillips/UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA:
"That would probably constitute a health hazard."
Health experts say molds are potentially problematic because of their ability to make microtoxins. Microtoxins are materials which in fact can cause a great deal of gastrointestinal distress and neurological problems and in rare instances, it can cause death. The water in question is in 8 oz. containers bottled on July 15th of 2004. It shouldn't expire for at least a year. Karla bought hers at Garden Cash and Carry wholesale store.
Action News checked a box on the shelf and found more sealed bottles for sale with mold floating inside.
Soo Park/GARDEN CASH AND CARRY:
"That's bad. We cannot sell it. We cannot sell it."
Owner Soo Park says her store bought the water from J&N Distributors which is where George got his cases, too. Both wholesalers are giving customers refunds if they request them.
Jacob Naydobich/J&N DISTRIBUTORS:
"Of course, it's terrible, it's supposed to be pure water."
The mold problem appears to be isolated to one batch bottled early in the morning on July 15th and shipped to Philadelphia. But Twin Mountain's parent company, American Beverage Corporation out of western Pennsylvania says that could be up to 7,488 bottles!
"This is not something that should be on the shelf. They should catch this stuff before it goes out." American Beverage Corporation sent us this statement:
"Based on an evaluation of the sample that you sent to us, we found that the foreign matter floating in the bottle was mold. In this case, we don't believe there is a health risk. How the mold got into the product is still under investigation. Our customer service department will either replace the product or provide a refund.
We showed the moldy water to state representative Harold James.
Rep. Harold James/(D) 186TH DISTRICT:
"The right thing for the water company to do is recall this shipment."
On the federal level, bottled water plants are supposed to be monitored and inspected by the Food and Drug Administration. But the agency's own website says bottled water plants generally are assigned low priority for inspection. And consumer groups says regulations are inadequate.
"So we might have to really tighten our regulation as it relates to bottled water."
We sent our findings to the FDA which is now investigating. The state Department of Agriculture has agreed to do some checking, too.
American Beverage told us it wouldn't be possible to track down and recall the bottles sold and according to a spokesperson for the F-D-A, the law doesn't even require companies to notify the agency.
But this evening, an official says the company is now trying to work with its local distributor to get the contaminated bottles off store shelves. The code is 071504, again Twin Mountain Spring Water - 8oz bottles.