BEIJING - Authorities have ordered a halt to the sale of 31 brands of water after they failed safety standard tests.
A list of the affected companies was published by the capital's industry and commerce administration's website on Wednesday. Consumers have been urged to demand their money back.
The brands were all found to have an excessive aerobic bacterial count or coli group, with one - Liquan - having an aerobic bacterial count 9,000 times the set value.
Too much coli indicates the water may be contaminated with animal waste or contain bacteria that could lead to intestinal disorders, according to the administration.
"People can stand a certain amount of bacteria, but when there is an excess the risks of catching infectious diseases like typhoid and cholera increase," said Li Xingming, an epidemiologist at Capital Medical University.
The government's random tests were carried out on large barrels normally used for water coolers and did not include small bottles, such as the 550-ml bottles sold in supermarkets.
"Water from famous brands is 15 to 20 yuan a barrel in my store, 18.9 liters each," said a dealer surnamed Zhang, at the e-baijia water store in Zhongguancun, Haidian district. "But there are hundreds of small brands, selling at 10 yuan a barrel, which are all produced by the same production equipment and just labeled differently."
Li Fuxing, a nutrition expert, warned that barrels for water coolers should be consumed within a week to prevent bacterial growth.
"I seldom drink water from drinking machines because I've seen many small peddlers selling water at 6 yuan a barrel, which barely covers the cost of sanitizing the recycled barrels and purifying the water," said Liu Chen, a 26-year-old Beijinger. "When I was in college, my ... roommates would return from summer vacation to find their water had turned into the disgusting green color."
The ban is the latest in a series of food scares this year, including poisoned pork, toxic milk and dyed buns.