Nongfu Spring, one of China's largest water producers, said that it is suing the Beijing Times for multiple news reports that its products fail to meet national standards. However, the Beijing Times insisted reports about the water quality are "factual" and "well-grounded. "
|| Zhong Shanshan, chairman of Nongfu Spring, is interrupted by a Beijing Times reporter as the two argue about water standards during a news conference in Beijing on Monday. Zou Hong / China Daily
Focal points of the dispute: National standard and Local standard
The Beijing Times 's report
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.
Some Zhejiang quality standard indexes are considered less strict, which have caused doubt as local standards are required to be stricter than national standards, according to regulations.
One example is on the permitted amount of toxic arsenic, where no more than 0.01 milligrams per liter is the national standard, but the allowed maximum amount is 0.05 mg/liter according to Zhejiang standards, which are followed by Nongfu Spring. (Source: China Daily )
Zhong Shanshan, chairman of Nongfu Spring, said at a press conference on Monday
"The company didn't follow national standards but those of Zhejiang Province, where the company is based, because they were stricter. "
"The standard of Zhejiang, DB33833, covers 57 criteria while the one of Fujian Province covers 28, Hunan Province 37, Chongqing 25, Guangdong Province 40. Currently, DB33833 is still a leading standard in China."
"The Ph of Nongfu Spring was controlled at between 6.8 and 7.8, which was also stricter than most standards in China." (Source: Shanghai Daily)
On May 6:
A news conference in the afternoon
Nongfu Spring descended into a war of words with reporters from The Beijing Times
Zhong Shanshan, chairman of Nongfu Spring
"We didn't label national standards on our product because they are mandatory, and we are also supervised by national standards in production."
"The company has been adopting several standards for bottled water products, including a national standard on the sanitation of bottled drinking water, a national standard on tap water and a quality standard on bottled drinking water made in Zhejiang."
"When there are different requirements for a same index in these standards, we always choose the strictest requirement."
"The factory will not produce barreled drinking water - water stored in barrels that usually have a capacity of 19 liters - in Beijing in the future, although no quality issues have been found since the factory opened in Beijing in 2008."
"The inaccurate reports had caused big troubles for the company in the past month, and have forced the company to quit producing barreled drinking water in Beijing."(Source: China Daily )
"Nongfu Spring decided not to cause a loss to our customers or to lower our head to media attacks. and we can't produce water under such circumstances." (Source: Shanghai Daily)
Reporters from the Beijing Times
They insisted reports about the water quality had been "factual" and "well-grounded. "
|Nongfu Spring has been questioned about the quality standards on its water products. [File photo]
On May 6:
Beijing Times published a report: Nongfu Spring halts Beijing barrels
Production of barreled drinking water branded Nongfu Spring, has been suspended in Beijing due to misuse of the quality standard.
Beijing's bureau for quality supervision, inspection and quarantine confirmed on Sunday that it has ordered the factory to suspend production of barreled drinking water in Beijing because the factory had been adopting a quality standard made by the government of Zhejiang province, where the headquarters of the company is based, instead of a national standard, the report said.
Producers of drinking water in Beijing normally follow national standards because there is no local standard for the production of drinking water in Beijing, the report said. (Source: China Daily )
Production of 19-liter barrels was suspended on April 20 after the newspaper had raised questions about the company's quality standards.
Following the reports, Beijing quality watchdogs began an investigation into Nongfu Spring and temporarily suspended its production in Beijing for not applying national standards. (Source: Shanghai Daily)
Nongfu Spring's response
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.
An unidentified female manager with the company, who appeared at the briefing on Monday, confirmed a lawsuit has been filed with a Beijing court and it is awaiting acceptance. (Source: China Daily )
The lawsuit by the Zhejiang-based company has not yet been accepted by the Beijing Municipal NO.2 Intermediate People's Court. (Source: Global Times)
The company said that nearly 100,000 residents in Beijing who had prepaid would be given five 4-liter bottles of its water produced in other provinces instead of their usual 19-liter barrel. A 19-liter barrel cost 20 yuan (US$3.2) while five 4-liter bottles cost 35 yuan.
Water stored in barrels, that usually have a capacity of 19 liters, is provided for drinking at home and in offices by a number of companies. (Source: Shanghai Daily)
On April 10:
The Beijing Times published a report
"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." (Source: Global Times)
Comments: Dong Jinshi, The China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment
A lack of unified standards to regulate bottled water not only caused confusion, but also made it difficult to put enterprises under supervision.
Dong Jinshi with the International Food Packaging Association suggested a unified national standard formulated to cover all mandatory indexes of bottled water.
Bottled-water companies in China adopt a variety of water standards, including national standards made by different ministries; standards made by local governments; and those made by the companies themselves.
This creates confusion among the public and makes it difficult for the food authorities to supervise quality, Dong said. (Source: China Daily )
China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment
There are four national standards on quality and sanitation of bottled water in China.
China has more than 5,000 standards on food quality and hygiene, which were formulated by different government departments.
"The National Health and Family Planning Commission is speeding up its consolidation of standards on bottled water, and new national standards will be published." .
In addition, clarification and consolidation of 5,000 food standards will be completed before the end of 2015. (Source: China Daily )
Nongfu Spring to sue over quality claims (China Daily)
Nongfu closes plant, sues paper (Global Times)
Nongfu Spring halts Beijing barrels (Shanghai Daily)