More than 40 packaged drinking water manufacturing units here, which are approved by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), are now either on the verge of shutting down or have leased out their plants.
These units, each of which have spent at least Rs. 1 crore in capital investment and another Rs. 1 lakh every year for BIS certification, are being undercut by companies that exploit loopholes in Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA), 2006, according to Coimbatore Region Packaged Drinking Water Manufacturers Association.
Certain companies avoid use of the words ‘packaged’ or ‘mineral’ drinking water to avoid meeting any standards even though they supply the same product given by those adopting these words, Association Secretary D. Suresh Kumar told The Hindu here on Saturday.
By using the words ‘herbal’ or ‘flavoured’ water, which have been categorised as traditional food products under the FSSA and exempt from standards, the companies are able to supply drinking water cheaply and undercut others that follow all norms.
“Such firms typically set up an RO plant in a rented house premises and spend just around Rs. 2 to 3 lakh.
“There are at least 30 such plants operating in Tirupur alone.”
The public are not aware of the distinction between these approved and unapproved companies and often buy the cheaper products, he says.
He said that of the 108 members of the association, 15 have leased out their plants and 27 have become sick and are likely to close down.
The association, he says, has lodged complaints with the Commissioner of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, the statutory body that enforces the FSSA, and the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) asking them to close the loopholes.
Mr. Suresh Kumar says they will be stepping up their campaign with the Central Government and create awareness among the public.
If no action was forthcoming, he said that these companies had little choice but to surrender their BIS certification as following these norms was proving futile.