Hawke's Bay company's first shipment of drinking water rejected by China
New Zealand's bottled water industry may need to go on a PR offensive to avoid New Zealand's "clean, green" image being tainted by a shipment of bottled water being rejected by China.
New water bottling company Miracle Water, near Hastings, sent its first shipment of drinking water to China late last year.
Company spokeswoman Louise Harvey said on arrival in China the water, which is drawn from the Heretaunga Plains, was found to contain nitrite levels too high for the local market.
"To class water as 'spring or artesian' for the New Zealand market the maximum level of the naturally occurring nitrite is 0.2mg/L while the Chinese maximum level is 0.005mg/L. Unfortunately the levels of nitrite were higher than the Chinese standard hence the product was returned," she said.
Roderick Brodie, University of Auckland marketing professor, said the Chinese requirements were stringent.
But he said the concern was that a rejection on the basis of nitrite could be read as being linked to excessive use of fertiliser.
"The Hawke's Bay bottling company needs to come out with a very strong press release to counter this, so that we don't have anyone saying we're not a clean and green country."
He said Fertiliser might not have anything to do with it, but that was the risk that was run.
"That's the real challenge now. On the surface we just move through it and it's a minor glitch but if I was part of an exporters association for bottled water, I would look into this very seriously."
The water was exported in large plastic bladders, contained in shipping containers.
Harvey would not disclose the quantity of water sent as it was commercially sensitive.
She said testing was conducted regularly on the water but on this occasion there was an error in not picking up that the nitrite level was higher than the Chinese standard.
"Testing is now being undertaken daily and that will continue over the next two months to ensure the levels are correct, and then will be conducted on a regular schedule.
"With correct testing and analysis the problem will not occur again," Harvey said.
It was not an issue for the aquifer and the problem occurred in the NZ Miracle Water treatment system.
NZ Miracle Water decided to recall the products and there was no government involvement in the decision, she said.
The company opened its $20 million plant in October, and is consented to take 750,000cum of water from aquifer this year, increasing to 900,000cum from next year onwards.