Bottled water: concern over additives

With sales of sugary fizzy drinks slowing and the writing on the wall for colas, the global drinks industry now sees flavoured water as the new super-product. Sales are rising rapidly and the big companies are rushing to develop, or buy flavoured water brands.

While flavoured waters undoubtedly help to raise hydration levels, they also contain a slew of additional ingredients - sugar in particular. Some popular brands contain six to eight teaspoons of sugar per 500ml, and even the smaller bottles aimed at children can contain three teaspoons of sugar.

Some products also contain aspartame, an extremely controversial additive which some scientists claim is not safe because it is readily broken down in the gut to produce methanol - a well known poison - and is further converted into formaldehyde - a class A carcinogen. Read more

Another widely used additive in flavoured waters is sodium benzoate (E211) which has produced asthma and anaphylactic shock in some consumers and is claimed by one molecular biologist to be a potential cause of damage to DNA, as well as liver damage and neurological disorders. The Hyperactive Children's Support Group ( recommends that children are not given food or drink containing E211.

Potassium benzoate (E212), another frequently used preservative, was recently described by the Food Commission ( as ‘mildly irritant to the skin, eyes and mucous membranes’.

A recent study by British dentists found that all flavoured sparkling waters have acidic tendencies, due to the fruit flavouring and acids - such as citric and malic acid - that are added to them, and that these drinks are therefore potentially erosive.

They found that lemon-and-lime flavouring was the worst and that carbonated water contributes more to erosion than still water.

Read more on the erosive potential of flavoured drinks
Read more low-down on flavoured waters in general

First published in October 2007

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