Supermarkets have been condemned as ‘immoral’ for selling bottled tap water to millions of unsuspecting customers without declaring the origins on the label.
Tesco and Asda are selling filtered mains water at 17p for two litres – a mark-up of 2,500 per cent on the price paid by homeowners for their mains water.
Both products appear alongside big-brand natural mineral and spring waters, yet there is nothing to identify them as merely filtered tap water. Now experts are calling for a change in the law to require the stores to provide honest labels.
Jacob Tompkins, director of Waterwise, an independent body that advises the Government and industry on the efficient use of water, said: ‘There is a very real danger that people are being misled by the way these bottled waters are being labelled.
‘They are taking tap water that is perfectly good to drink and has already been filtered and checked many times. They are then filtering it again for no good reason, sticking it in a plastic bottle, transporting it hundreds of miles across the country and leaving in on shelves to get hot and cold for weeks on end.
‘When they are selling natural mineral water or spring water filtered through rocks in the north of Scotland, supermarkets are very quick to spell out every detail on the bottle.
‘However, strangely they cannot find the space to list these products as filtered tap water. The public should be told on the label exactly what they are buying.’
He said selling tap water to people who have already paid for it once in their household water bills was absurd and potentially harmful.
He added: ‘The idea that you would allow somebody to sell you back your own tap water for a mark-up of 2,500 per cent is just ridiculous. We have already paid for this tap water and all the infrastructure that produces it.
‘The customer should not be taken in. It is like rebottling air. Personally, I find it shocking and immoral.’
The supermarkets claim the point of filtering the water is to remove traces of chlorine and other impurities. In fact, according to the official Drinking Water Inspectorate, 99.96 per cent of all tap water meets the UK’s high quality and safety standards.
Mr Tompkins said: ‘The chlorine stops bacteria growing, so by taking this out, supermarkets are making the water less safe.’
As a result, the Tesco and Asda bottled tap water come with a use-by warning to drink them within three days of opening. The stores claim their filtration process makes it unfair to describe the products as tap water.