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Food and Drink

Drinking a non-alcoholic beverage while driving

You are at risk being hit with hefty penalties if they take their eyes off the road to have a drink when driving.  

While it’s not illegal to have a non-alcoholic beverage when driving, drivers can be hit with a careless driving charge if it causes them to be distracted.  However, it is illegal to pay for a McDonald’s drive-thru with your mobile phone.

If you take your attention off the road to have a refreshment, police officers can deem you were “driving without due care and attention”.

Motorists can also find themselves in trouble if they’re spotted eating behind the wheel.

Driving without due care and attention, or careless driving, carries a £100 on-the-spot fine and up to three penalty points on your licence.

But in more serious cases where someone has been injured, you could face an unlimited fine, up to nine penalty points and even a court-imposed driving ban – although for the majority of motorists, the fine won’t exceed £5,000.

An Australian man was recently fined $173 (£94) for drinking water behind the wheel on a 39-degree day.

Another Aussie was threatened with a $500 (£256) fine and three penalty points on her licence because she was drinking a coffee when driving.

While officers are more likely to give a warning than a fine, it is essential to keep your concentration on other road users.

A study by the University of Leeds found motorists who ate while driving were 44 per cent slower than usual and if you need a drink or have something to eat, make sure to do it when you’ve completely stopped or pulled over.

A reckless Brit was recently captured eating a bowl of cereal at wheel in Manchester. The video shows a man has no hands on the wheel, with one hand grasping a bowl and the other shovelling spoonfuls of breakfast into his mouth.

Neil Greig, director of policy and research at IAM RoadSmart, said: “Eating at the wheel is just another classic example of multi-tasking that can take your attention away from safe driving.”   Obvious cases such as juggling hot drinks or a sandwich can be easily spotted by traffic police who can issue an on the spot ticket for careless driving.

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Food and Drink

International alert as listeria cases hit 150 in Spain

Spain’s health ministry issued an international alert over the country’s biggest ever listeriosis outbreak on Wednesday as the number of people affected rose to 150, including one fatality.

Amid concerns over possible infection among the more than 80 million tourists who visit Spain annually, the ministry said it was checking another 523 suspected cases.

Most confirmed cases have been recorded in the southern region of Andalusia, where the packaged pork plant linked to the outbreak is situated. But there have been others as far away as Catalonia in the northeast and more around 50 people remain in hospital.

Listeria is an illness caused by eating foods contaminated by the bacteria, Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria infection (also known as listeriosis) is uncommon but it can cause death in at-risk people,

such as the elderly and people whose immune systems are not working properly.  Listeria, usually causes mild illness but can be dangerous to pregnant women, 23 of whom are among those still hospitalised, and those with weakened immune systems.

The ministry said it had issued alerts to EU authorities and the World Health Organization over the outbreak, which was on Tuesday confirmed to have killed a 90-year-old woman.

The plant in question, owned by Seville-based Magrudis, was inspected by health authorities after lab tests showed the presence of listeria in one of its products, the ministry said. All products manufactured in the plant since May 1 have been recalled.

The company has not responded to requests for comment.

“Obviously there was a failure to follow the established procedures,” acting health minister Maria Luisa Carcedo told reporters. “Now we need to carry out the inspections and investigations to figure out exactly where this failure took place.”

Listeria high-risk foods

The following high-risk foods should be avoided:

  • Ready-to-eat seafood such as smoked fish or mussels, oysters or raw seafood such as sashimi or sushi
  • Pre-prepared or pre-packaged fruit and vegetable salads including those available from buffets, salad bars and sandwich bars
  • Drinks made from fresh fruit and vegetables where washing procedures are unknown (excluding pasteurised or canned juices)
  • Deli meats which are eaten without further cooking or heating, such as pate, ham, Strasbourg (Stras) and salami and cooked and diced chicken (as used in sandwich shops)
  • Any unpasteurised milk or foods made from unpasteurised milk
  • Soft-serve icecreams
  • Soft cheeses, such as brie, camembert, ricotta and feta (these are safe if cooked and served hot)
  • Ready-to-eat foods, including leftover meats, which have been refrigerated for more than one day
  • Dips and salad dressings in which vegetables may have been dipped
  • Raw vegetable garnishes.

Animals can carry the bacteria and infect meat and dairy products. The bacteria can also come in contact with other foods while in a processing facility and is capable of living there for years.

Listeria symptoms range from mild to severe

Early symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Aches and pain.

These can lead to more serious problems, including:

  • Meningitis (brain infection)
  • Septicaemia (blood poisoning).

Symptoms generally occur about 3 weeks after coming into contact with Listeria bacteria, but symptoms may occur as quickly as 3 days or as long as 2 months.

Listeria is dangerous for pregnant women

Pregnant women with listeriosis may experience only mild flu-like illness, but the unborn child suffers the serious effects of the infection.

Even a mild infection can cause:

  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth
  • Premature birth
  • A baby who is very ill when born.

Other people who are at high risk of listeria

People at high risk include:

  • The elderly
  • People whose immune system is weakened by illnesses like cancer, liver or kidney disease and diabetes
  • People on medications like prednisone or cortisone. This includes organ transplant patients.

What is the treatment for listeriosis? 

There are several antibiotics that are effective against this bacterium. However, Listeria infection affecting the central nervous system can be fatal even if the patient is treated with antibiotics. 

This is particularly likely in the elderly and in people with other serious medical problems. Early diagnosis and rapid use of antibiotics are critical for a successful recovery. When infection occurs during pregnancy, antibiotics given promptly to the pregnant woman can often prevent infection of the fetus or newborn.

Babies with listeriosis receive the same antibiotics as adults, although a combination of antibiotics is often used until physicians are certain of the diagnosis. (NOTE- it is very important to finish your antibiotics, even if you begin to feel better, unless otherwise directed by your health care provider.)

Conclusion

The Listeria bacterium has a Jekyll and Hyde personality and  it is well adapted as a organism which gets its energy from dead and decaying organic matter (saprophyte) for peaceful survival in soil and decaying vegetation (Dr. Jekyll) 

However, it has a second life as a bacterial pathogen capable of causing serious infection in humans and in many animal species (Mr. Hyde)

In its Mr. Hyde phase, the bacterium is a significant public health hazard, responsible for an estimated 28% of deaths attributable to known food-borne pathogens.

How a humble soil-grown bacterium transform into a deadly invader.

The transformation appears to be mediated through complex regulatory pathways that produce virulence factors in response to environmental cues.

Once the bacteria are ingested by a human, the increase in temperature and exposure to acid in the stomach stimulates increased production of stress response proteins that kick starts the bacterium into its virulence state.

People at risk can prevent Listeria infection by avoiding certain high-risk foods and by handling food properly.

The bacteria are able to live in a wide range of conditions and environments—they can tolerate both acidic and salty conditions, both high and low temperatures, and a fairly low moisture content.

These characteristics allow the Bacterium to survive a long time in a variety of food products and food processing plants.

Because the bacteria can multiply and persist in food processing plants for years—even more than 10 years in one documented case—Listeria is especially hard to control and can result in intermittent contamination of food.  Unlike most bacteria, it can grow and multiply at low temperatures, making the bacteria a potential problem even in properly refrigerated food.

This information is intended for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a health care professional. 

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Food and Drink

Milk and nutrition

Milk and dairy foods are some of the most nutrient-packed foods available to us in our diets today and are as ancient as civilisation itself. In fact, historical evidence suggests that dairy products from animals have been consumed by humans from as early as 4000 BC.

Dairy foods and nutrient richness

Foods that, per calorie, provide plenty of the right nutrients to keep the body fit and functioning properly are said to be nutrient rich.

Many dairy products fall into this category because they contain protein, carbohydrates and fats – the energy providers – as well as essential vitamins and minerals. 

That impressive combination has an important role to play when consumed as part of a healthy balanced diet Calcium, for instance, with which milk is primarily associated, is vital for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth, and phosphorus is needed to maintain a normal energy metabolism.

The protein found in dairy foods contains amino acids that help to build and repair body tissues, and vitamin B12 helps to form red blood cells.

How much?

The Food Standards Agency suggests (via its diagram of the ‘Eatwell plate’) that a balanced diet should consist of about a third starchy foods, such as wholegrain bread, pasta and rice, and a third fruit and vegetables with the remaining third made up from milk and dairy foods, meat, fish or alternatives and as little as possible fatty and sugary foods.

Even if you don’t keep to these proportions every day but balance them out over a week, you won’t be going far wrong.

Just how much of any nutrient should be taken each day depends mainly on age, gender, general health and lifestyle, so it’s impossible to list a definitive amount of each one that will be right for everybody all the time. 

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-eatwell-guide/

However, Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) referred to on many labels provide a good guide, and the Department of Health’s Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) figures give further general guidance, setting down an amount for each of the main nutrients that covers the needs of most people. 

For a complete list of the RNIs for calcium, please visit the Dairy Council’s website (www.milk.co.uk).

The RNI for calcium is 700mg per day for an adult and, following The Dairy Council’s recommended three portions a day regime, this can be made up from a 200ml glass of semi-skimmed milk (247mg), I50g pot of low-fat yogurt (243mg) and a 30g piece (matchbox size) of hard cheese (222mg). 

Milk, yogurt and cheese are the most popular dairy foods in the UK, and usually available in whole, low-fat and fat-free varieties.

Milk is suitable for all age groups, from the very young to the very old. Its diverse variety of nutrients and their importance within the body are indicated by the glass-of-milk illustration above. As well as the vitamins and minerals shown, milk contains thiamine, niacin, folate and iodine, plus smaller amounts of several other essential nutrients. 

When substances are described as ‘essential’, it means that the body is unable to manufacture those nutrients for itself, so it’s important to eat food that contains them. One quick and easy way is to drink milk!

Sterilisation is the removal of living micro-organisms, and can be achieved by moist heat, dry heat, filtration, irradiation, or by chemical methods.

Compared to pasteurisation, a heat treatment of over 100°C is applied for a period long enough to lead to a stable product shelf-life.

Varieties of milk

Pasteurised milks

Whole milk: milk with a minimum fat content of 3.5 grams of fat per 100 g of product

Semi-skimmed milk: milk with a fat content between 1.5 and 1.8 grams per 100 g of product

Skimmed milk: milk with a fat content which does not exceed 0.3 grams per 100 g of product

1% milk: milk with a fat content of 1g per 100 g of product

UHT milk: milk which has been heated at such high temperatures that all potentially harmful bacteria are killed. This particular heat-treatment produces longer shelf-life milk compared to conventional milk

Filtered milk: milk which undergoes a filtration process (in addition to the usual steps of milk processing) to remove further souring bacteria, therefore the shelf-life is increased

Flavoured milk: milk which has been sweetened and flavoured (e.g. chocolate and strawberry milk). Many flavoured milks are made from low-fat varieties (semiskimmed or 1%).

As a result of being sweetened they have a higher sugar content but still provide a vast array of beneficial nutrients and are a source of calcium, potassium, vitamin B2 and phosphorus

Raw milk

Raw milk is milk that has not been heat-treated. The nutritional value of raw milk is not significantly different to pasteurised or heat-treated milk but it may contain pathogens which could be harmful to health. 

Sales of raw milk are banned in Scotland and limited in England, Wales and Northern Ireland due to their links with food poisoning.

Lactose Intolerance 

Lactose intolerance is a condition where someone has a reduced ability to digest the sugar found in milk and dairy foods (lactose) due to a deficiency of lactase, an enzyme which breaks down lactose.

Most people who have this condition can tolerate small amounts of lactose so there is no need to avoid dairy completely. Some dairy foods, such as cheese and yogurt, contain only small amounts of lactose.

Cow’s milk protein allergy 

Cow’s milk protein allergy is very different to lactose intolerance. It is a response of the immune system to the protein contained in cow’s milk. This type of allergy is not common but is more prevalent in young children.

However, children usually grow out of the condition and can enjoy dairy foods as adults. Consult a registered dietitian for advice.

Lactose intolerance and cow’s milk allergy are two completely different conditions that require different management

Are hormones or antibiotics added to cow’s milk? 

In the UK hormones are not added to milk or to the diet of dairy cows to enhance their milk production. Natural hormones can be found in a wide range of foods and are present in both plant and animal based foods that we consume.

Milk is rigorously tested for traces of antibiotics under European law to ensure that food is safe for consumption. Cows receiving antibiotics are milked separately from the rest of the herd to ensure that the milk is discarded and does not enter the food supply.

What are the nutritional differences between organic and conventional milk? 

There are no significant differences between organic milk and conventional milk in terms of quality, safety and nutrition. Consumers, however, may choose to purchase organic milk for reasons of personal preference.

The general principles of organic food production involve avoiding pesticides and fertilizers, using crop rotation to maintain soil fertility and using only a limited number of approved products and substances where necessary in the processing of organic food.

Does consuming milk cause heart disease? 

Saturated fats have been associated with increased risk of developing heart disease. Milk and dairy foods make a contribution to saturated fat intake in the UK diet.

Recent health research has suggested that the issues concerning saturated fat are more complex than the simple message of ‘saturated fats are bad’. In fact, the evidence actually suggests a protective effect of milk consumption on risk of developing heart disease.

This may also be due to other beneficial nutrients contained in milk (e.g. calcium).

How milk is made and transported

The first key players in milk production are, of course, the cows. They are milked twice a day and the average UK dairy farm produces 2,000 litres of milk daily!

The milk is then stored in tanks at 4ºC and is transported to the dairy for processing.

Here, the milk is:

1. Pasteurised: the milk is heated up very quickly and cooled down again. This process ensures that harmful bacteria are reduced in number so that 1. they do not constitute a health risk.

2. Separated: the milk is separated into its cream component (rich in fat) and liquid component.

3. Standardised: the cream and liquid component are re-blended so that the milk contains the exact amount of fat required depending on whether it is to be consumed as whole, semi-skimmed or skimmed.

Lower-fat options tend to have less vitamin A and vitamin E than whole milk, but have more minerals such as calcium, potassium and phosphorus.

4. Homogenised: milk contains fat globules of different sizes. This means that, if left to set, the larger globules would make their way to the top and form a cream layer.

Homogenisation is a process where the milk is pushed through a hole with such pressure that the larger fat globules are broken down and dispersed within the milk.

This gives milk an even, more palatable consistency.

Alternative methods of sterilisation

UHT (Ultra-high temperature sterilisation) has a heat treatment of over 100°C during very short times; it is especially applicable to low viscous liquid products.

Direct UHT treatment means a very short heat treatment at temperature of approximately 140°C (135 -150˚C) for only a few seconds. Generally in a plate or tubular heat-exchanger. This results in a sterilised product with minimal heat damage to the product properties.

UHT treatment is only possible in flow-through equipment. The product is thus sterilised before it is transferred to pre-sterilised containers in a sterile atmosphere. This requires aseptic processing. This is why UHT processing is also called aseptic processing.

For UHT treatment, indirect heating in plate and frame or tubular heat exchangers is applied. However, direct steam injection or steam infusion may also be applied.

Indirect UHT method

In many cases, products must not only be attractive and healthy to eat and drink, but also economical to manufacture, store and distribute.

The most cost-effective method of UHT processing is indirect heating – a heating method in which the processed product never comes into direct contact with the heating medium. There is always a wall in between. This technique applies to all types of heat exchangers.

In the indirect systems the heat is transferred from the heating media to the product through a partition (plate or tubular wall). The indirect systems can be based on:

• Plate heat exchangers

• Tubular heat exchangers

• Scraped surface heat exchangers

Indirect UHT plants are a suitable choice for processing of milk, flavoured milk products, cream, dairy desserts, yogurt drinks and other non-dairy applications, such as juices, nectars and tea.

Indirect UHT plant method is based on plate heat exchangers

This process solution is appropriate for products such as coffee cream and evaporated concentrated milk.

Pulsating electric field – Principle

Pulsed electric field in order to kill micro-organisms has long been known. For some time the application has been expensive compared to other techniques, but the application may be interesting for some products. 

Advantages are that the food product to be treated does not change in chemical and physical properties, hardly increases in temperature, little water and energy is required and far less cleaning (compared to UHT).

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Food and Drink Health & Fitness

How exactly does alcohol affect your health

Previous studies are somewhat confusing, is alcohol safe, because current research states that there are many benefits to drinking alcohol, and others say we should avoid at all costs.

Is it possible to drink alcohol and avoid unnecessary health risks?

The answer is simple: drink in moderation.

Moderate alcohol consumption, otherwise known as low-risk drinking, is defined as having up to one standard drink, 0.6 fluid ounces of 14 grams of pure alcohol per day for women and two standard drinks per day for men, according to Dietary Guidelines.

A standard drink is equivalent to a 12-ounce serving of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. Consuming more than three drinks per day for women and more than four drinks per day for men is considered heavy drinking.

A study published by JAMA Psychiatry in 2017 indicated that “high-risk drinking and alcohol abuse disorder among women has increased by almost 60%.

Moderate drinking can play a role in maintaining a healthy weight and a healthy heart as it can reduce weight gain and the risk of heart disease.

Choosing wine instead of beer or other high-calorie alcoholic beverages can help with weight loss.

As for your heart health, some studies also show alcohol consumption can increase the production of good cholesterol.

Drinking beyond moderation, even sporadically, is unhealthy.

“There are downsides to alcohol that can do damage that far outweighs any benefit”.

While some benefits of moderate alcohol consumption may exist, you can’t ignore the dark side of drinking alcohol and the risks are mostly related to heavier alcohol consumption.

However, frequent alcohol consumption can lead to alcoholic disorders and their many consequences, including physical dependence, mental health issues like depression, sleep problems as well as work, family and social dysfunction

According to the American Cancer Society, alcohol consumption is a risk factor for a variety of cancers including mouth, throat, colon, breast and liver. Even moderate alcohol consumption is linked to a 20% increased risk of mouth and throat cancer.

Bear in mind, the cancer risk increases the more you consume.

There’s little harm in enjoying a glass of wine with dinner, but you can protect your health and avoid unnecessary consequences by limiting your consumption.

Heavy alcohol consumption can lead to alcohol dependence or addiction; therefore, drinking in moderation is key if you choose to drink at all.

Excessive alcohol drinking can have long-term physical health risks such as:

  • Liver disease
  • Heart disease
  • Increased risk of cancer, including breast cancer
  • Pancreatitis
  • Birth defects if drinking alcohol during pregnancy

Ensure you leave adequate time for the alcohol to leave your system, you may still find your are over the safe driving limit during the following morning or day.

On average, it takes about 1 hour for your body to break down 1 unit of alcohol. However, this can vary, depending on:

  • your weight
  • whether you’re male or female
  • your age
  • how quickly or slowly your body turns food into energy (your metabolism)
  • how much food you have eaten
  • the type and strength of the alcohol
  • whether you’re taking medication and, if so, what type

It can also take longer if your liver isn’t working normally.

How much is 1 unit of alcohol

1 unit of alcohol is equivalent to 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol. There are roughly:

  • 2.1 units in a standard glass (175ml) of average-strength wine (12%)
  • 3 units in a large glass (250ml) of average-strength wine (12%)
  • 2 units in a pint of low-strength lager, beer or cider (3.6%)
  • 3 units in a pint of higher-strength lager, beer or cider (5.2%)
  • 1 unit in a single measure of spirits (25ml)

Adding up your units

If you drink a large (250ml) glass of wine, your body takes about 3 hours to break down the alcohol.

If you drink 1 pint of beer, your body takes about 2 hours to break it down, 1 pint of strong lager is equivalent to 3 units, so this will take longer.

However, this time can vary, depending on the factors mentioned above.

If you have a few drinks during a night out, it can take many hours for the alcohol to leave your body.

The alcohol could still be in your blood the next day.

This means that if you drive the day after an evening of drinking, you could be over the legal alcohol limit.

For more information, see How much alcohol can I drink before driving?

Categories
Food and Drink

Drink: water safety

Drinking water – tap, filtered, or bottled – is important for healthy hydration and plays a vital role in people’s lives. Consumers choose bottled water for several reasons, including taste, quality, and convenience.

Bottled water is also an alternative to less-healthy sugary packaged beverages when consumers want to eliminate or moderate calories, caffeine, sugar, artificial flavors or colors, alcohol, and other ingredients from their diets.

Water

chemical compound H20, is fundamental to all human life. Ancient cities were planned around it and it has been the cause of territorial wars. Yet it is only recently that we have come to take water for granted: a simple substance which flows out of the tap.

But our faith in this most basic human resource is now being shaken. The quality of Britain’s tap water has, in fact, been causing concern since the early ’80s.

Earlier this year, the European Court of Justice upheld a complaint that 5.3 million people in East Anglia and the Midlands were being supplied with drinking water containing excess nitrate. This chemical can cause ‘blue baby syndrome’ in infants, and its long-term effects are yet not fully appreciated.

And to make matters more complicated, those findings came only weeks after a television investigation of bottled water appeared to show that both mineral and spring waters contain higher levels of potentially harmful contaminants than tap water.

So, how do you choose between the two?

Just how far can we rely on bottled water?

Is it a safe substitute for common or garden tap water?

DESIGNER LABELS

UK sales of bottled water are now worth £300 million a year; 10 years ago, it was almost unknown. There’s no doubt that the ‘designer’ drinks image of Perrier and other mineral waters boosted the sales.

But there is another side to this coin: a bottle of water costs about a thousand times as much as an equivalent quantity of tap water. Thus, the bottle boom suggests that there is little public faith in the reliability of tap water.

WHAT’S ON TAP

Most tap water comes from reservoirs and is pumped to filter beds where particles and microbes are removed, then it’s chlorinated to kill any remaining bacteria. Legislation requires that the water is tested at all stages by local water authorities before it is supplied to homes.

But there have been enough incidents of contamination – by metals such as lead and aluminium, bacteria including salmonella and Cryptosporidium and chemicals such as nitrates – to suggest that these measures are not always effective.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) estimates that 10 million UK consumers are supplied with water that is contaminated beyond legal limits. The 1990 report of the Drinking Water Inspectorate found that 90 per cent of the UK’s meets EC water purity standards.

But several water authorities are known to be unable to meet those standards and have sought exemption from them for 10 years. FoE wants an independent national drinking water authority established to monitor the water industry and get the issue cleaned up before 2002.

ON THE BOTTLE

Most bottled waters are ‘groundwaters’ that set out as rain which then seeps through rocks to form underground pools. They bubble up to the surface through cracks in rocks and form springs, or they can be pumped artificially by drilling a borehole in the ground. Both still and sparkling forms are available.

WHAT A GAS

Many sparkling waters are still initially and are made effervescent with carbon dioxide gas (CO,). A few waters emerge from the ground naturally carbonated, but they are very difficult to bottle. So, the gas is usually removed and then put back once the water is in the bottle. Some varieties are already lightly carbonated, but these generally have extra gas added before they are bottled.

TELLING TIME

When doubts about tap water were first raised, bottled water was considered the safer option because the slow process of rain moving through rocks helped purify it. filtering out the organic material on which most bacteria need to live.

Mineral and spring waters, it was claimed, were therefore purer and much less prone to environmental pollution and pesticide residues.

Some sources of mineral water, such as the Buxton Spring in west  Derbyshire, contain water that fell in the form of  rain hundreds of years ago. Others come from shallow underground springs and are only a few weeks weeks old when bottled.

MINERAL MATTERS

Mineral waters have always been regarded as having curative and health giving properties, but contemporary science takes a different view. In order to function properly, the human body needs a good balance of minerals -such as sodium, calcium and potassium – but many scientists believe these should be kept at low levels in water.

Sodium, for example, is thought to raise blood pressure, which in turn may increase the risk of heart disease.

Mineral waters are the water that contains minerals. The minerals can be added artificially or can naturally be in the water.

Water that has collected in underground pools naturally erodes rock, dissolving the constituent minerals and salts. Each groundwater source therefore differs, depending on the character of the rock that it passes through.

However, just because it comes from below the ground, we cannot assume that spring water is a much safer bet than surface water which ends up in the tap.

OVER THE LIMIT

A recent Equinox programme on Channel 4 asked scientists in Wales to test a variety of bottled mineral waters. The experiment found that 17 of them exceeded the limit that is set for certain minerals in British tap water.

The same researchersalso discovered that 39 out of 51 bottled waters contained bacterial levels in excess of EC rulings for tap water. It is unlikely that those bacteria were naturally present.in the groundwater, so the results suggest that water is being contaminated  when it is bottled.

While the main  problem with tap water may be that  the UK finds it hard to comply with the EC’s standards and bottled waters are barely regulated in comparison.

Those labelled ‘spring’ can contain any water that has come up through the ground. But a ‘mineral water’ does have legal criteria to fulfil: it must be safe to drink, free of pollution and harmful bacteria, and bottled straight from the ground.

However, the regulations set limits for just 13 chemicals and bacteria, as opposed to the 57 applied to tap water.

There is also no legal obligation for bottlers to test on a daily basis. And the regulations only apply for the first 12 hours that elapse after bottling, even though it can be months before the water is consumed.

EC rulings on mineral waters are currently under review. Interested parties such as the Consumers’ Association are calling for new rules to be applied to bottled waters – mineral and spring.

They want stricter controls on contamination and the compulsory labelling of all minerals present in significant amounts.

Many argue that the simplest course of action would be to make all bottled waters conform to the same standards as tap.

Spring Water

Spring water is often mistaken for being equal or interchangeable with purified water. However, spring water often contains many of the same impurities found in well or tap water.

In fact, since springs feed our rivers, there is a lot of spring water in our tap water! Spring water generally has the same TDS range as tap water.

Many spring water companies advertise their water as “100% pure—” but if it’s not purified, what does that mean?

The “pure” part actually refers to the source, not the water itself—in that 100% of that bottle’s contents came from an underground source (rather than surface water).

This clever wording leads many people to believe that spring water is just as clean as purified water.

Thanks to this crafty marketing, spring water often conjures up natural, pleasant imagery. In reality, most spring water is not actually bottled at the source, but rather, is pumped into large tanker trucks from the source to be transported to the bottling facility.

The water in those trucks must be chlorinated or ozonated at all times to protect against contamination. In this sense, spring water is hardly different from tap water, since it is largely treated the same way.

Once the water is at the bottling facility, it goes through a carbon filtration process to remove the chlorine. This process may separate spring from tap water, but nitrates, metals, and more are likely to remain.

Distilled Water

Distilled water is processed by boiling H2O out of its contaminants. Many of said contaminants include inorganic minerals or metals. Those impurities have a much higher boiling point than water’s boiling point of 212 degrees Fahrenheit. 

So, the steam that results from the boiling is captured and cooled—and the water that results from the steam is what is classified as distilled water. Because many of the volatile compounds in water have a lower boiling point than water, they boil off first.

As a result, it is important to employ additional purification methods beyond distillation in order to have truly clean, pure water.

Filtered Water

Filtered water is what you are most likely to find in a grocery store. It is typically sourced from municipal tap water, which is then run through carbon filters to remove the chlorine (which improves the taste) and sometimes a micron filter as well.

After the filtering, it is ozonated and bottled. In essence, filtered water is quite similar to spring water. It comes from a “natural” source, goes through minimal filtration, and is then bottled and shipped to market.

Purified Water

The source of purified water isn’t what makes it the best choice on the market—it’s the purification methods that separate purified water from the rest of the pack.

Purified water goes through a process similar to what filtered water goes through, but with a few added steps like reverse osmosis, distillation, or deionization. The end result is far purer than filtered, spring, or tap water.

Alkaline water

The pH of water is neutral, around pH 7. Chemicals and gases can change this to make it more acidic or more alkaline.

pH of waterThe pH of water is around 7, but some people say it may be more healthful to drink water that is alkaline.

Rainwater’s pH is slightly below neutral, because there is carbon dioxide from the air, and this increases acidity.

  • Acidic substances have a pH of below 7.0, down to zero. The pH of vinegar is around pH 3, lemon juice around pH 2, and battery acid around pH 1.
  • Alkaline substances have a pH up to 14. Baking soda’s pH is between pH 8 and 9, and milk of magnesia is between pH 10 and 11.

Water can be high or low in pH, but if it is too high or too low, it can have adverse effects.

Alkaline water is somewhat controversial. Many health professionals say there isn’t enough research to support the many health claims made by users and sellers.

However, there are a few studies that suggest alkaline water might be helpful for certain conditions.

For example, a 2012 studyTrusted Source found that drinking naturally carbonated artesian-well alkaline water with a pH of 8.8 may help deactivate pepsin, the main enzyme that causes acid reflux.

Another study suggested that drinking alkaline ionized water may have benefits for people with high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

A more recent study IN 2019; included 100 people found a significant difference in whole blood viscosity after consuming high-pH water compared to regular water after a strenuous workout. Viscosity is the direct measurement of how efficiently blood flows through the vessels.

Water that is too alkaline has a bitter taste. It can cause deposits that encrust pipes and appliances. Highly acidic water may corrode metals or even dissolve them.

TAKING ACTION

The issue of quality is something of a minefield, in which all the decisive factors are outside the control of individual consumers.

There are, however, some rules that we can observe.

  1. Buy bottled water in glass rather than plastic bottles -some scientists think that bacteria multiply faster in plastic: besides, glass is easier to recycle.
  2. Refrigerate bottled water after opening and finish it as soon as possible, preferably within one day.
  3. If you use bottled water regularly, consider buying a filter – it will almost certainly be better value in the long term.

If you already use a filter, make sure you change the filter cartridges frequently and according to manufacturers’ instructions.

Always store filtered water in the fridge.

If you still have lead plumbing in your home, apply for a grant from the local council to have it replaced.

When using water to make up babies’ feed, boil it first -whether it’s tap or bottled. Check that any mineral water given to a baby is low in sodium. (Compare labelling information with the maximum limits laid down in the Water Act 1989. available from HMSO)

You can find out if your tap water complies with the legal standards. Either go and look at the public register held by your water supplier or get the information sent through the post.

Ask for details of the maximum permitted levels of various substances, so that you can make your own comparison.

Moreover, the water from public water systems is often compromised after emergency situations or natural disasters (e.g., hurricanes, floods, tornados, fires, or boil alerts). During these times, bottled water is a necessary and reliable alternative to deliver clean, safe drinking water. 

If you cannot understand the information, ask your local Environmental Health Officer or Friends of the Earth group for help. (For a FoE briefing sheet on drinking water, send an sae to: FoE, 26-28 Underwood Street, London N1 7JQ.

Water Brands

Voss Artesian Water

Two Norwegian entrepreneurs created Voss, a classy, designer-savvy tube of water from the crisp, frigid aquifers of their Nordic homeland. Shielded for hundreds of years from pollutants by thick layers of rock and sand, Voss water is bottled in Southern Norway, “naturally unfiltered” and served both still and sparkling. 

But its rugged purity is not Voss’ only selling point. The company’s designers painstakingly developed the bottle’s look and feel to reflect a brand that embodies both health and high fashion.

Voss first became available mostly in upscale hotels and in health spas in Europe and in the United States but has since seen much wider distribution in gourmet food and retail stores on both continents.

Saint Geron Mineral Water

Saint Géron, known as “the queen of mineral waters,” stems from an ancient spring in the Auvergne region of France. The light, sparkling mineral water in a bottle of Saint Géron is the product of an 1,100-year filtration process. 

This results in the water being cleansed of all bacteria and nitrates, which show up at less than .1 milligrams per liter. Unusually rich in calcium and magnesium, Saint Géron has long been used as a treatment for digestive problems, diabetes, anemia and even gout.

Although the water was not bottled until the nineteenth century, the Romans patronized the spring long before — ancient coins from the Gallo-roman period (50 BC–486 AD) have been found scattered all around the source. 

The water comes in a modern, elegant glass bottle created by painter and designer Alberto Bali.

Hildon Natural Mineral Water

One of the UK’s most prestigious bottled waters, Hildon Natural Mineral Water is served at the House of Commons and the Royal Opera House (and is rumored to be the water of choice at Buckingham Palace). 

Hildon begins as rainfall, which percolates through the chalk hills of the Hampshire countryside. After a period of 50 years the water emerges at an underground aquifer beneath the nineteenth-century Hildon Estate.

The chalk acts as a unique natural filtration system, protecting the water from pollution and endowing it with high levels of calcium. Once it reaches the source it is immediately bottled without chemical treatment. Naturally low in sodium, the water is prized for its purity and well-balanced taste.

Hildon, which produces both still and sparkling varieties, was the first company in the world to sell a natural mineral water with a carbonation level below 2.9.

This low level of carbonation makes their “Gently Sparkling” water ideal for sipping alongside fine wines and subtly flavored dishes, which risk being overwhelmed by more robust bubbles.

Evian Natural Spring Water

Discovered by a French nobleman during the French Revolution, Evian stems from a source that was thought to hold curative and restorative powers from the start. Evian begins as water that emerges from the Source Cache in France in a mountain tunnel at 52.88 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The source is fed from the melted snow and rain that filters through glacial sand from the Vinzier Plateau over a period of fifteen years. The glacial sand is surrounded by clay, which protects the water from pollution and gives it its mineral composition and taste.

The water is bottled at a nearby bottling plant, which is highly automated and exceptionally hygienic.

Fiji Natural Artesian Water

FIJI Water, natural artesian water, began being bottled in 1996 at the source in the Yaqara Valley of Viti Levu, one of Fiji’s two principal islands, and is now the number one imported bottled water in the United States. 

FIJI’s natural artesian origins provide the water with a unique mineral profile, including its high silica concentration. FIJI Water is known for its iconic square bottle and its signature soft, smooth taste, which comes from the natural silica content and trace amounts of calcium and magnesium.

As part of that strict commitment to quality, no human hands are allowed to touch it. Perfectly protected from outside air and external elements, FIJI Water is untouched until you unscrew the cap.

Gerolsteiner Mineral Water

Founded in 1888, Gerolsteiner Sparkling Mineral Water is the number one water export in Germany. In the German style of stringent purity and cleanliness, Gerolsteiner’s production follows strict purity protocols. 

Originating in springs from the area of Volcanic Eifel, Gerolsteiner flows from ancient, rocky volcanic reservoirs 200 feet beneath the earth’s surface. Minerals and carbonic acid leach into the water as it percolates up through the volcanic rocks, giving Gerolsteiner its exceptionally high amount of calcium, bicarbonate and magnesium.

Gerolsteiner is a great source of essential nutrients that our bodies need daily and its natural carbonation gives Gerolsteiner its refreshing, neutral taste.

Ferrarelle Naturally Sparkling Mineral Water

Relatively unknown in America, Italy’s number one brand of sparkling mineral water was established in 1893, though Italians have been drinking from its source for hundreds of years. 

This naturally effervescent water is bottled directly at a spring located in the protected Sorgeto di Riardo Park near the extinct Roccamonfina volcano in Italy’s Campania region. Ferrarelle is extremely mindful of the quality of its products, testing them more than 600 times each day. Care is also taken to safeguard the habitat surrounding the spring, and the company’s bottling plants are powered by solar energy.

Ferrarelle water, both sparkling and still, is bottled in glass containers rather than plastic, which protects its taste and purity and lessens the impact on the environment. Ferrarelle water begins as rainfall, which trickles through layers of rock in the ground, soaking up valuable minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium and fluoride.

Nevertheless, it has no mineral taste and no unpleasant saltiness. It does have the thirst-quenching, pure taste of simple water, with a pleasant amount of fizziness.

Perrier Mineral Water

Perrier is a naturally sparkling mineral water sourced from a spring in Vergèze, France. Originally called Les Bouillens, the spring has been used as a spa resort since Roman times. The distinctive bottle shape is said to have been inspired by Indian clubs used for exercise by spring owner Sir Saint-John Harmsworth. 

The water and carbonation are captured separately and recombined in the bottling process to preserve the natural sparkling flavor of the original water from the spring.

Today, Perrier is marketed as a healthy alternative to soda drinks and cocktails and is available in a variety of flavors, ranging from pink grapefruit to lemon and lime.

Mountain Valley Spring Water

Since 1871, Mountain Valley Spring Water has been praised by U.S. presidents, world-class athletes and even Hollywood stars for its refreshing taste and potent health benefits. 

Bottled at its source in the hills between the Glazypeau and Cedar Mountains in Arkansas, Mountain Valley Spring Water has a unique mineral composition that is believed to have medicinal properties that can help alleviate chronic disorders.

Elvis Presley, John Lennon and Joe Lewis were firm believers in the restorative powers of this water, and they weren’t the only ones. Thirteen presidents (from Coolidge to Clinton) had Mountain Valley regularly served to their guests while they were in office, and the water is currently being served in the United States Senate.

In fact, President Dwight Eisenhower drank the water medicinally following a heart attack. It was also served to a number of famous racehorses, including Nashua, Sunday Silence and the great Secretariat. This sparkling water is light and clean, with a delicate pH balance for premier taste.

Volvic Natural Spring Water

Volvic is bottled exclusively at its unique source in France and available in more than 60 countries. The basin supplying the Volvic spring source is located in the Regional Park of the Old Auvergne Volcanoes, a volcanic region that has been dormant for 10,000 years. 

The name Volvic refers to the town as well as a type of gray volcanic rock. The source of the water, the Clairvic Spring, was discovered in 1927.

In 1965, the French Ministry of Health authorized the bottling of Volvic water. Volvic emerges year-round from its protected source at the constant temperature of 8.8 degrees Celsius.

Brecon Carreg Bottled Mineral Water 

It begins as rain falling on the hills and valleys of the Brecon Beacons, then streams, filters and flows through layer after layer of dense limestone strata and other ancient rocks for many, many years.

Not surprisingly, during the course of this long and colourful excursion, the water gains traces of lots of different minerals, which are present in the various rocks it is travelling through on its journey to the surface. The minerals acquired in this way, are what gives our bottled mineral water its unique natural taste and make-up. 

Another factor in our success and popularity is that the excellent balance of minerals in our water also gives it a reassuringly low sodium content. In fact our water has the lowest sodium content of all major UK mineral water brands, which means if you’re concerned about too much salt in your diet then this is the mineral water for you.