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Weak Government Surveillance in Regards to the Quality of Bottled Water

By Emiliana García
  • Bottling companies obtain permits to begin commercial activities -- no long-term quality control in place
  • Bottled water costs one thousand times as much as tap water

When you purchase a bottle of water, are you sure of its quality? You might want to think twice before saying yes since neither the Ministerio de Salud, AyA, or the Ministerio de Economia monitor the quality of the water that is bottled during the companys’ operations. 

Although the Ministerio de Salud is in charge of determining whether a specific bottled water is fit for human consumption, they are not in charge of monitoring whether or not the company continues to meet the water quality standards that were required at the time of the first, and only, inspection done by health inspectors at the bottling plant.

The Ministerio will step in again only in cases where there is an emergency situation related to the bottled water or where contamination is suspected.

When asked why the country lacks national standards and regulations needed to monitor the quality of bottled water, Engineer Orlando Rodríguez Baltodano, Chief of the Norms and Regulations Department at the Ministerio de Salud, explained, “We are currently in the process of getting to know the market in order to establish new control regulations".

On the other hand in 2005, Darner Mora, AyA's Laboratory Director, had reported that both AyA and the Ministerio de Salud, “should require that all water bottling companies actively take part in a quality control program and that, along with AyA, [the Ministerio] must supervise this control process”. However, up to now, only INTECO (Instituto de Normas Técnicas de Costa Rica) has created a national regulation plan. The plan, developed in 2007 is available for 3,200 colones but is not mandatory for bottled water manufacturers.

Finally, Harold Hutt, Media Relations Director for the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio (MEIC), when asked if they have any type of control regulations, said that in order to obtain their commercialization permits, water bottling companies must abide by what is stipulated in Law 7472 regarding labeling. However, he explained. at the MEIC “there are no technical regulations that apply for bottled water”. 

Nevertheless, the price of bottled water is almost one thousand times greater than the price of tap water.

The average price for one liter of Cristal bottled water is 132 colones (when purchase a gallon). The price for one liter of tap water from AyA in Nicoya is 0,329 colones, from Nosara's rural Asada is 0,110 colones and from the Playas de Nosara Asada is 1,213 colones (including the extra fee known as a “donation").

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