Bottled water manufacturer Nongfu Spring plans to sue the Beijing Times into silence after the newspaper published an exposé which claimed the company’s water contained high concentrations of arsenic and cadmium.
According to China Daily:
In an online statement on Monday, the company said it is seeking 60 million yuan ($9.7 million) in damages from the paper, which it accuses of defamation.
Zhong Shanshan, chairman of Nongfu Spring, appeared at a news conference in the afternoon that descended into a war of words with reporters from The Beijing Times, who insisted reports about the water quality had been “factual” and “well-grounded”.
The dispute has raged since April 10, when The Beijing Times published a report that said Nongfu Spring, whose sales of bottled water account for 20 percent of the domestic market, did not meet the national water quality standard, and instead adhered to a lower standard set by Zhejiang province, where the company is based.
On its bottles’ label, Nongfu Spring quotes DB33/383-2005, the Zhejiang standard, but not the updated national standard, despite its products being available nationwide.
Under the Zhejiang standard, the permitted maximum amount of arsenic is 0.05 mg/litre, compared to just 0.01 mg/litre under the national standard. Nongfu claims that it also follows the national standard, but doesn’t label its bottles as such since the national standard is mandatory.
Sales of the water were blocked in Beijing following the publication of the Beijing Times report.
Beijing Bottled-Water Sales Industry Association ordered its member companies to take Nongfu products off shelves, citing quality standard problems, as well as misleading advertising.
The Beijing Times also reported this week that production at a Nongfu bottling plant had been stopped by the Beijing Bureau of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine. Company executives denied this was the reason for the shutdown.
This isn’t the first time Nongfu has fought off accusations of lax quality standards or just plain grossness. In 2011, consumers allegedly found worm eggs in sealed bottles of Nongfu Spring. The company was also fighting claims that its product contained dangerous levels of arsenic way back in 2009.
We don’t want to get sued obviously, but maybe lay off the [popular brand of bottled water with red caps] for now?