End of Project ReportThe consumption of natural mineral water is rapidly growing and outpacing all other beverages on a global scale. In Europe, bottled water already has a bigger market share than carbonated soft drinks. Yet there is only a limited availability of information on the microbiological safety and quality of bottled natural mineral waters sold within the European Community. As natural mineral water does not receive any bacteriocidal treatment prior to bottling, the risk of pathogen contamination is a public health concern. Pathogen contamination may occur as a result of over exploitation of natural mineral water resources i.e. over abstraction by commercial bottling companies may lead to disturbance of the water table causing contaminated surface water to be drawn down into ground water supplies (Green and Green 1994). Such contamination was implicated in an outbreak of cholera associated with the consumption of bottled natural mineral water in Portugal in 1974 (Blake et al. 1977). The transport and dissemination of E. coli and enterococci in a limestone aquifer had been demonstrated by Personné et al. (1998), confirmation that E. coli can survive the transitory period from the surface to underground water supplies, thus raising the question of E. coli O157:H7 with its low infective dose < 10 cells (Willshaw et al. 1994 and Tilden et al. 1996) surviving the transitory period from surface to a natural mineral water aquifer
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