Consumers are being misled by the term “spring water” and further misled by the flavoured spring water drinks, according to a report in “The Food Magazine”. A survey by the Food Commission found that many such drinks use preservatives, colouring, artificial sweeteners and other additives, even though the name on the front implies a relatively pure drink.
Shoppers complained that what they thought was pure water with a drop of fruit flavouring was in fact a sweet soft drink with preservatives and additives, according to the report’s author. The descriptions on the front of the bottles are very misleading.
Tesco’s Spring Water Drink with a hint of grape and blackberry juice for example, or Boot’s Mandarin Still Spring Water with the flavour of mandarin both contain artificial sweeteners, preservatives and acidifiers. Sainsbury’s Crystal Spa made with spring water and natural tangerine flavour has more added sugar than Coca Cola, while Ribena’s Spring has an incredible 13 sugar lumps in a single serving.
Unlike mineral water, which is tightly defined by law, spring water is less rigorously defined and if a flavouring agent is added then the product is defined as a soft drink, not bottled water, and all the colouring ingredients, preservatives and sweetening agents used in soft drinks can be added.
When Perrier added “a twist of lemon” to their water they started a trend which other companies have been quick to exploit. Shoppers are paying a lot per glassful - these are soft drinks charged at Perrier prices.
Of course, the Australians have gone one stage further and are selling a sparkling “Alcoholic Spring Water” with flavourings and vodka.