Now it’s Fake Water

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Jodi Xu writes:

This morning, I heard the news that half of Beijing’s bottled water is counterfeit. I was horrified. It seems that illegal factories fill the used plastic bottles from the tap or with perfunctorily filtered water. The bottle tops and tape that they use to seal the bottle look identical to the genuine ones. The bottles aren’t sterilized and the number of mold fungi and e. coli bacteria that have been found in such water can easily make drinkers sick. An industry report quoted by Beijing Times calculates that more than 100 million bottles of such water were sold last year. The profit derived from these illegal sales exceeded 1 billion RMB, or about $12 million.

As a Chinese, I am used to reading about dangerous fakes. But this case really enraged me. This is water that many of us drink every day, after all. And the whole reason people pay extra for bottled water is for the quality—and safety. The Beijing Times did a story a couple of days ago that revealed the illegal business has been going on for five years. One unlicensed water bottler told the newspaper: “I filter the tap water before filling the bottle because I am a moral person and I don’t want to get people sick.”

When I read that I myself felt sick — with anger. I also asked myself where are the government and regulatory authorities who are supposed to be protecting us. The rampancy of fake water comes down to the inability of the government in China to enforce its own laws. In this case, red tape is usually blamed. The local officials with responsibility for preventing counterfeiting have no legal power to search an illegal bottler’s factory, it is said.

How much longer can Beijingers put up with these kind of mealy-mouthed bureaucratic excuses? Maybe, like everything else in this city, we should look to the Olympics for salvation. After all, if this issue isn’t tackled soon, athletes and visitors around the world might show up for Olympics next year carrying their own water and food.