Perrier brought down by Mecklenburg health lab

“In February 1990 the leading bottled water brand on the planet, Perrier, was discovered to have excessive levels of benzene…. The contamination was discovered not by the FDA but by the Environmental Health Department in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

“The Department was using Perrier as its standard for testing other waters….  When [lab workers] began seeing problems in all their  water quality tests, they cleaned their lab, recalibrated equipment and redid their tests before realizing the contamination was coming from the Perrier they were buying at the local store. Testing the Perrier itself, they found levels of benzene that violate federal standards and  alerted the FDA.

“The first reaction by Perrier was to deny any health risk —  ‘A cup of non-freeze-dried coffee contains more benzene.’  [Company officials] then attributed the problem to a faulty machine serving only the North American market…. More tests, however, discovered it affected the entire global production of the previous six months, leading to the recall of millions of bottles….”

— From “Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water” by Peter H. Gleick (2010)

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