FDA Issues ‘Jermuk’Warning; Company Claims Product is US Certified

(FDA/RFE/RL)–The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a warning to consumers on Wednesday, not to drink certain bran’s of mineral water imported from Armenia due to the risk of exposure to arsenic, a toxic substance and known cause of cancer in humans. The statement specifically mentioned still and carbonated water bottled by Armenia’s two largest producers of Jermuk, which are currently being recalled from the marketplace. The recalled bottles are labeled: "Jermuk Original Sparkling Natural Mineral Water Fortified With Natural Gas From The Spring"; "Jermuk Sodium Calcium Bicarbonate and Sulphate Mineral Water"; "Jermuk, Natural Mineral Water Sparkling". A company spokesman, Edgar Ghazarian of Jermuk Group said that the ban, which could hit hard Jermuk sales in Armenia, took it by surprise. Ghazarian said the water, extracted from an eponymous spa resort in the southeastern Vayots Dzor region, was certified by U.S. health authorities before it began to be exported to America in 2000. FDA testing of 500 milliliter bottles water revealed 500 -600 micrograms of arsenic per liter. FDA’s standard of quality bottled water allows no more than 10 micrograms per liter. The Armenian standards, set by the National Institute of Standards, allow for up to 700 micrograms of arsenic in one liter of mineral water. But the institute director, Yerem Chakhoyan, acknowledged that Jermuk should be regularly drunk only by individuals suffering some stomach and intestinal diseases. The FDA stated that here have been no illnesses reported to date, and urged consumers who have concerns to contact their health care provider. Symptoms of acute arsenic exposure usually occur within several hours of consumption. The most likely effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain. Over the period of a few days to weeks, the kidneys, liver, skin, and cardiovascular and nervous systems could be affected. Extended exposure could lead to cancer and death.


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