March 25, 2009

Canadian bottled water recalls questioned

A Canadian public interest group in Ottawa says the national food safety agency is inconsistent in issuing recalls for problems found in bottled water.

The Polaris Institute used access to information laws to research the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's response to such things as bacterial, arsenic or mold-contaminated water and glass chips between 2000 and early 2008.

The institute, long opposed to bottled water, found 29 recalls had been issued during that time span, but only seven of them were publicized on the CFIA Web site.

Prior to the release of its findings Wednesday, spokesman Joe Cressy told the Globe and Mail newspaper the occasional Web entry is not showing the full scale of problems.

Recalls are happening and coupled with that they're not widely publicized, Cressy said.

CFIA food safety and recall specialist Garfield Balsom defended the agency's track record, saying risks are categorized, and only the most critical are made public to avoid flooding the public with information about products that sometimes hadn't reached retail outlets.

There are downsides to publicizing everything, Balsom told the Globe.