Does sachet water contain shit? (2)

Another study conducted in Ta­male by Duwie­juah et al.(2013) examine the effect of storage on the quality of sachet-vended water produced in the Tamale Metropolis. Based on the findings of this study, it is recommended that Food and Drugs Authority and Ghana standard Board should ensure minerals concentrations of sachet water are improved to meet the general dietary requirement.

Also, in a study by Awuah et al.(2014) the quality of sachet and bagged water sold on the mar­ket was assessed to determine its suitability for consumption. Water quality analysis was performed on 50 brands of sachet water and 20 bagged water sampled randomly selected for the study.

Eighty-two percent (82%) of the sachet water samples and all the bagged water samples were found to be contaminated with either E. coli, Salmonella, other coliforms, and Enterobacteriaceae. The analy­sis revealed that even though most of the physicochemical parameters were satisfactory, the biological parameter was poor.

These bacteria are capable of causing diseases like typhoid, cholera, and other gastrointestinal disorders thus posing a serious health risk to consumers.

Another study by Stoler et al.(2015) tested a sample of 80 sachets purchased along two com­mercial transects in low-income neighborhoods of Accra, Ghana, for total coliforms (TC), fecal coli­forms (FC), Escherichia coli (EC), total heterotrophic bacteria (THB), and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA), and examined the relationships between these indicators and brand reputation. Just 5% of samples tested positive for TC, and none tested positive for FC and EC, yet 41% of samples tested positive for PA.

After controlling for one popular brand, a negative brand reputation was associated with both THB presence and the number of sam­ples with THB but PA was found in brands of both positive and negative reputations and was only correlated with THB counts. The emergence of PA presents an op­portunity for the re-evaluation of packaged water quality standards in a rapidly-globalizing, urban environment.

Mosi et al.(2018) also determine the microbiological quality of 41 brands of sachet water sampled in 16 districts across 5 regions in Ghana. The researchers examined the samples for the presence of total and fecal coliform ( Esche­richia coli).

They found that the majority of the samples (56.09%) were excellent, 4.87% satisfactory and 14.63% suspicious. Ten samples (24.4%) were unsatisfactory. For the degree of fecal contamination, (85.56%) were satisfactory, four (9.76%) were suspicious, and two others (4.88%) were unsatisfactory.

The contaminations observed could be attributed to poor san­itary conditions (during and/or after production) and the failure of some production facilities to adhere to standard manufacturing practices. Their data suggest that microbiological quality sachet water from some sources has not yet attained levels that make it pure and wholesome for consumption in many areas.

Another study by Aslan et al.(2020) also assesses the microbi­ological quality of sachet water in 21 different brands in Ghana. They found Culturable total coliform was positive in 87% of the samples collected, where Escherichia coli colonies were absent. The anal­ysis of quantitative polymerase chain reaction results indicated the presence of E. coli genes in 44.6% of the samples, with the highest concentration up to 3,166 CCE/100 ml.

Microbial source tracking anal­yses showed that the source of E. coli genes did not originate from sewage contamination because the human-associated HF183 marker was not detected. Of the 175 sam­ples tested, 71% did not mention any water treatment before filling the packages.

Their study shows an urgent need for increased regulation and standardized manufacturing of sachet water to ensure safe drinking water.

A more recent study by Amuah et al.(2021) showed that vendors in Damongo, Northern Region, did not adhere to proper hygienic practices as ninety-four (94%) of them did not have health clearance, ninety (90%) did not frequently wash their receptacles for selling daily, and most of them stored and sold in unhygienic environments. The majority of the producers violated Food and Drugs Authority Regulations.

They found that total iron, total Heterotrophic Bacteria, Salmonella, Cl−, E. coli, and fecal and total coliforms were the controlling ele­ments in the water. All the brands were below threshold limits based on the physical water assessment. However, enteric bacteria were observed in all the brands.

The researchers suggest that besides sachet water contamination during production and transporta­tion, vendors significantly impacted the quality of sachet water. Sensiti­zation on proper hygienic practices for sachet water production and vending and routine assessment of the quality of sachet water pro­duced or sold is recommended.

A larger recent study by Ang­nunavuri et al. (2022) published this August in the Science of The environment examined Six hundred (600) packages, consisting of sachet and bottled water, that were sampled from two high-end companies in Accra (Ghana) and stored through their shelf lives un­der an average room temperature of 30oC.

The results reported lower than regulated levels of electrical con­ductivity (163.66mg/L), alkalinity (39.67mg/L), and residual chlorine (<0.01mg/L) while the pH was generally within specification (6.5-7.7).

All samples showed progressive biological contamination following the third week (sachet samples) and the sixth week (bottled water) of incubation. This study confirmed the presence of phthalates and pathogenic bacteria in the samples, at risk levels that require mitigation.

Due to the public health threat of this, Dada (2015) wrote one let­ter to the editor of a peer-reviewed journal titled Reflections on ‘Mi­crobiological quality of packaged water sold in Accra, Ghana. Panel and calling on the FDA to take measures to regulate sachet water producers in Ghana.

TAKE HOME

Empirical studies have demon­strated that some sachet waters are unsafe for human consumption. However, they failed to mention the brands that are safe for the Ghanaian public. Probably, the manufacturers association in con­junction with the FDA should take measures to protect the public as the studies are worrying.

Also, from empirical studies, bottled waters have high-quality standards as compared to sachet water. Though water is life, unsafe water sold to the public is a huge public threat. For instance, (Dodoo et al. 2005; Kwakye-Nuako et al. 2007; Amuah et al. 2021) agree that we cannot say sachet water is safe for public consumption.

(Addo et al. 2009; Mosi et al. 2018)also found bad practices by the producers are the cause of unhealthy sachets of water. Interestingly, Amuah et al.(2021) showed that vendors in Damongo, Northern Region, did not adhere to proper hygienic practices as ninety-four (94%) of them did not have health clearance, ninety (90%) did not frequently wash their receptacles for selling daily, and most of them stored and sold in unhygienic environments. This is worrying!

Stoler et al.(2013) found Sachets from brands with a positive reputa­tion for quality were 90% less likely to present any level of total hetero­trophic bacteria after controlling for confounding factors.

The question is how do we know the good brands on the market? What markers should consum­ers look out for to check quality brands?

Well, Osei et al.(2013) recom­mend that consumers should opt for bottled water instead of sachet water. Duwiejuah et al.(2013) advise the FDA and Standard Au­thority to work together to protect the public.

On disease correlation and unsafe water, Awuah et al.(2014) found that outbreaks of cholera and typhoid are linked to unsafe drinking sachet water. What makes this a worrying trend is that Stoler et al.(2015) found some bacteria in both good and bad brands on the market. Interestingly, Aslan et al.(2020) found that some sachet water contains bacteria as high as 87%.

Finally, a more recent study by Angnunavuri et al. (2022) found bacteria from two high-end com­panies in Accra. There are more studies policymakers could review to take measures on the state of sa­chet water in the Ghanaian market to protect the public.

WAYFORD

Manufacturers of both sachet and bottled could also benefit from moringa seeds. For instance, one study by Dube and Chingo­ma(2016) found that moringa seeds are used for water purification. They note that using moringa seeds with water helps impurities stick to the seeds so they can be removed, leaving behind better quality water that’s lower in toxins.

Salt also seems to bind to moringa, which is beneficial for producing fresh-tasting water. The researchers found that 0.2 grams of ground moringa seed can turn one liter of contaminated water into safe drinking water. This is due to the coagulating actions of certain ingredients in the plant that absorb bacteria.

The interesting thing is that moringa and seed pods are inex­pensive, readily available, and may serve as a cost-effective means for the treatment of drinking water for domestic and commercial users in low and middle-income countries.

NB: Prof. Nyarkotey has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations to justify his write-ups. My articles are for educational pur­poses and do not serve as medical advice for diagnosis or treatment. I aim to educate and empower the general public to take control of their health by providing trust­worthy or evidence-based scientific Natural Health Information and advocating for your right to make informed health decisions.

[This is the concluding part of the article published in the August 22, 2022 issue of the paper.]

The writer is a Professor of Naturopathic Healthcare, President, Nyarkotey College of Holistic Medicine & Technology (NUCHMT)/African Naturopathic Foundation.

E-mail: collegeofholisticmedicine@gmail.com.

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