New York Warned on Bottled Water After Poisoning : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread


Thursday September 14 6:06 PM ET New York Warned on Bottled Water After Poisoning

By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Officials are warning New Yorkers to check bottled water for tampering or contamination before drinking after three people drank water poisoned with ammonia or lye in the past six weeks.

The FBI (news - web sites) said on Thursday it was helping New York City police investigate the incidents, none of which were fatal. In one case an 18-month-old boy was hospitalized after drinking bottled water tainted with ammonia, officials said.

``We are working with the NYPD on these incidents,'' FBI spokesman Joe Valiquette said. ``On three different occasions, people have been injured drinking three different brands.'' The injuries were limited to mouth and throat burns.

A possible fourth case was reported in the Bronx on Thursday when a man said his throat burned after he drank from a bottle of Aquafina water. That water was being checked for contaminants, authorities said.

All of the other cases occurred in Manhattan.

On Aug. 3, a woman felt a burning sensation in her mouth after drinking Perrier at a restaurant, and her mouth began to bleed. She was treated and released from a local hospital. Police said a lye-type agent, similar to those found in household cleaners, was the culprit.

A man who bought a bottle of Aquafina water on Aug. 27 from a midtown delicatessen also felt burning in his mouth, and was treated at a hospital. Ammonia was found in that water.

The most recent confirmed case on Sept. 6 involved the toddler who took a sip of Poland Springs water his mother bought at a Manhattan market. He was hospitalized and that water also contained ammonia, officials said.

Mayor Says Check For Tampering

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and others urged New Yorkers to check bottled water for signs of tampering, such as a broken seal on the cap, and to smell water before drinking it. Ammonia has an easily detectable odor.

``We don't have any link between the three,'' said police commissioner Bernard Kerik. ``The investigation is continuing.''

Giuliani said there was no reason to start removing bottled water from store shelves. ``Let's not get people more excited than they have to be,'' he told reporters.

Perrier Group, a unit of Nestle SA (NESZn.S), pledged to ''do everything we can to help the authorities get to the bottom of this situation.''

In a statement, Perrier Group President Kim Jeffrey said the company had examined manufacturing and delivery processes ''and found no evidence to suggest that the contamination occurred in our processes. ... We will continue to monitor our facilities and cooperate fully with the city and FBI investigation.''

The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) said the incidents ``appear to be local and isolated criminal actions involving products sold in New York City alone.''

``There is nothing to indicate that the contamination originated in the manufacturing or distribution chain,'' Stephen Kay, IBWA vice president of communications, said in a statement.

In 1999, 4.6 billion gallons of bottled water were sold in the United States, according to the New York-based Beverage Marketing Corporation, an industry group.

Total revenue for the industry was about $5.2 billion last year. New York ranks as the fourth-largest market for bottled water in the United States behind California, Texas and Florida, a corporation spokesman said.

Perrier sells both Perrier and Poland Springs. PepsiCo Inc. (NYSE:PEP - news) sells Aquafina. In 1990 Perrier was forced to recall 160 million of its famed green bottles when it discovered the accidental contamination of its water with benzene.

In the most prominent case of product tampering, seven people died in 1982 when they took Tylenol pain reliever that had been tainted with cyanide. The incidents led to a revolution in product packaging, with companies developing tamper-resistant techniques.

-- Rachel Gibson (, September 14, 2000



Friday September 15 8:25 PM ET More Reports of Tainted Bottled Water in New York

By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The number of reported cases of tainted bottled water rose in the New York area on Friday as laboratories tested water for ammonia or other toxins that have sickened at least three people.

While only three cases have been confirmed, at least two other bottles of water were being tested for contaminants and at least two other incidents had been reported.

State health officials said they were testing water that came from the same batches as the tainted water, and had cleared two of the bottlers of any problems at the manufacturing end.

The brands involved included Poland Springs and Perrier, both owned by Perrier Group, a unit of Nestle SA, and Aquafina, owned by PepsiCo Inc.

In one new case, Suffolk County police on Long Island said on Friday that a 30-year-old man reported getting sick after he drank about half a bottle of Poland Spring water he bought at a convenience store. He was treated at a local hospital and the water was sent to a lab for testing, said officer Robert Hoss, who added the water reportedly had a ``chlorine-type smell.''

Also, a Westchester police department employee told the New York Post he has been unable to work since July 2, when he drank Poland Spring water that was tainted with ammonia. The Post said police closed the case because there was no evidence of tampering.

The Daily News reported a Queens family was sickened two months ago by Poland Spring water that company officials confirmed had been tainted with gasoline, but the family never reported the incident to police.

Officials were skeptical of a seventh case, which was reported on Thursday by a gas station worker after the FBI (news - web sites) said it was helping New York City police investigate other incidents. Tests on the water in the case had not been completed.

The three confirmed cases involve people in Manhattan who drank water that was later found to have been tainted with ammonia or lye. The first occurred on Aug. 3. Two victims were treated in hospital and released but an 18-month-old boy was hospitalized six days.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has urged New Yorkers to check any bottled water for signs of tampering or contamination before drinking, but he said removing bottles from store shelves was not warranted.

Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik said nothing had been found to link the cases.

Perrier Group officials said they found no evidence of contamination in their manufacturing and delivery processes, though they were continuing to cooperate with investigators.

Pepsi officials said the incidents stemmed from product tampering, not the manufacturing process.

In 1999, 4.6 billion gallons of bottled water were sold in the United States, according to the New York-based Beverage Marketing Corporation, with total revenue of about $5.2 billion. New York ranks fourth in U.S. markets for bottled water after California, Texas and Florida.

The Food and Drug Administration (news - web sites) also confirmed that it is working closely with other health and law enforcement agencies, said New York State Department of Health spokeswoman Claire Pospisil.

-- Rachel Gibson (, September 15, 2000.

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