Myanmar's bottled water brands kept failing FDA tests so it fixed that by lowering standards

Myanmar's bottled water brands kept failing FDA tests so it fixed that by lowering standards
Image: Shutterstock / Tarasyuk Igor

You might want to be careful the next time you reach for a bottle of water in Myanmar. 

Some 70 drinking water brands were granted brand licenses despite failing FDA-administered tests, after the government decided it was easier to lower test standards than for the brands to improve the quality of their water.

Myanmar’s Food and Drug Administration’s Microbial test measures the number of bacterial colonies that grow in water. 

All water brands in Myanmar were previously required to contain less than 100 colonies per millilitre — the same standard used in places like the US and EU.

However, several of the brands that failed had over 300 colonies per millilitre.

“In U.S. and the E.U., the standard is 100 bacterial colonies. Our standard was also [set at that level] but that was apparently too high for domestic brands,” FDA director-general Dr Than Htut told news outlet Eleven.

“We have relaxed the criterion to 500 per millilitre after learning that this level is accepted in other Southeast Asian countries.”

Dr Htut added that the country “still won’t approve any brands whose drinking water contains coliform bacteria, including E.coli”.

According to the World Health Organization, counting bacterial colonies per millilitre is used as a yardstick for how good the filtration process was.

Myanmar has 997 drinking water-production firms, with FDA officials conducting tests every two years. The FDA declined to reveal the brands that initially failed the microbial test.

Clean water is one of Myanmar’s biggest problems — in a country where it is unsafe to drink tap water, many still draw water from unprotected wells as they cannot afford or have no access to bottled water.

However, even those who can afford it now have a reason to be wary.

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