-covered over label problematic
A local bottled water company has been using Antinfek for purification for more than two years but says it has since stopped in light of the recent controversy over the use of the chemical by the Guyana Water Inc (GWI).
However, head of the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department (GA-FDD) Marlon Cole says his agency could not have authorized its use in the first place and would be investigating.
Stabroek News yesterday bought a 600ml bottle of water that was labeled “Crystal Spring Natural Hydration H20,” which is produced by Wieting and Richter Ltd.
Upon close inspection of the bottle, a small grey sticker could be seen plastered across the bottom of the label, covering a section that reads: ‘Organically treated with Antinfek 10H by Dove Biotech.’
When Stabroek News contacted the company yesterday, a spokesperson, who did not want to be named, related that they had been using the chemical since 2014 but opted to stop last month. “We stopped after the recent controversy with GWI and Food and Drugs. We blocked it out because the labels are imported from Trinidad and it would cost a lot. We would have to stop sell the water immediately, pull them off of the shelf and relabel them and that would cost a lot,” the spokesperson related.
He indicated that prior to the use of Antinfek, the company had been using chlorine but Dove Biotech made several presentations that led them to conclude that the new chemical was much more efficient. “The company from Thailand [Dove Biotech] came and had lectures and presentations and we were convinced. The Antinfek disinfects the water faster and they explained to us that from A-Z it was certified and we did research too and we found it was good to use,” he explained.
He pointed out that since they stopped using the chemical on October 3, they have opted to use ultraviolet water purification. “We said we don’t want to be in any controversy and so we decided to change,” he added.
When questioned whether the product was authorized by the GA-FDD, the spokesman explained that it was and that they would usually send samples to the department and persons would usually come to inspect. He pointed out that it was either earlier in the year or late last year that someone from the department had tested the bottled water. “Nobody never objected,” he said.
However, Cole told Stabroek News yesterday that it was the first time he was coming across the bottle of water with the label. He indicated that since the word “water” is not on the label, it could not have been authorized by the GA-FDD. He further pointed out that the department will be investigating the matter.
A source from the department, however, said the company should not have been using the chemical at all since it could have never been approved by department for potable water.
Cole said that while the company claims it is not using the product anymore, the department would have to test to ensure that none of the bottles still contain Antinfek. Additionally, the source said that the company could be forced to recall all of the products with the false labeling. The source pointed out that it was also illegal for the company to block parts of the label even if it is not using the chemical anymore.
With reference to GWI using the chemical to disinfect their wells, Cole had said that it was a betrayal of the public trust and all ethics to have been using the chemical when it was not authorized for global use. He had pointed out that the department had not approved the use of it on the wells and when GWI had initially enquired about the chemical his department had stated that it should not be used.
However, in the case of the bottled water, it is being used directly to treat the water.
Cole explained that while chlorine is a disinfectant that has been approved and has gotten clearance for use across the globe, Antinfek does not have similar clearance. “The FDD’s position is that the chemical should only be used if there is absolute clearance,” he had said.
Although GWI had previously said that Antinfek was only being tested, leaked company emails seen by Stabroek News showed otherwise.
The company’s admission only came after Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan, who faced questioning in the National Assembly, had revealed that it had been used.
GWI Director of Operations Dwayne Shako subsequently confirmed at a press conference held earlier this month that the chemical was used to disinfect the Diamond Well Station and another at Hillfoot along the Linden/Soesdyke Highway.
According to Shako, after rehabilitation of the Diamond Well Station was completed, it was contaminated with mud and there was a need to have the well disinfected before the water could be distributed to residents. However, because the well was fitted with carbon steel, the use of chlorine as a disinfectant was not considered since chlorine would act a catalyst for corrosion of the steel. As a result, GWI moved to implement the use of Antinfek to quickly disinfect the well for the benefit of residents who would have been without water.
“We dosed the well with Antinfek, allowed it to settle and then we pumped the well to waste to test the water to ensure that it had no bacteria before we distributed it… It [Antinfek] allowed us to disinfect the well as quickly as possible… knowing that it was free of bacteria and knowing that it was friendly to our [environment],” Shako said.
A similar process was implemented to disinfect a newly constructed well station at Hillfoot, along the Linden/Soesdyke Highway as a means of ensuring that residents would be accessing biologically safe water from GWI. He said Antinfek was used in this case as opposed to chlorine, since the use of chlorine in untreated water causes the iron in the water to oxidize which results in clogging of the wells
“Antinfek allows the use for untreated water so we can rest assured that although we can’t remove the iron, we can ensure that the water is biologically safe,” Shako added. He stated that testing for the use of the chemical was done prior to the incident involving the Diamond Well Station.