Only 18 companies are currently licensed to distribute bottled water in Egypt, the health ministry stated on Tuesday.
According to a ministry press release, the licensed brands are Haya, Safi, Aqua Siwa, Siwa, Aman Siwa, Nahl, Organica, Aqua Sky, Mineral, Nestle, Vera, Baraka, Alpha, Aquafina, Tiba, Aqua Delta, Dasani, and Aqua Paris.
A shortage has hit the market since Nestle and PepsiCo, which together captured 71 percent of the bottled water market according to the Egyptian Competition Authority (ECA), cut production in the past months, forcing consumers to turn to other brands.
Nestle, which produces Nestle Pure Life and Baraka bottled water, was forced to halt all of its production processes after a fire devastated its only factory in Banha, Qalioubiya Governorate, in late February.
The production of PepsiCo’s Aquafina bottled water was suspended because it did not meet internal quality standards, according to the April ECA report.
Ahram Online was unable to reach company management for comment on the issue.
More than 13 companies had their bottled water production suspended due to contamination of their wells discovered in the past year, says Atef Yaacoub, head of Egypt's Consumer Protection, a fact that has aggravated the shortage.
Regular tests are conducted on unprocessed well-water, as well as the finished product, to make sure the source is free of certain bacteria according to international standards, says Zeinab Bakry, head of the National Nutrition Institute, the health ministry body in charge of licensing bottled water companies.
"Licensed wells can become contaminated by the poor hygiene practices of company workers or by sanitary water leaks from surrounding residential areas, or by the construction of buildings within the sanitary area around the well," explains Anan Helal, head of consumer protection non-governmental watchdog Ein Masr.
Three of the brands on the current safe-to-drink list, namely Aqua Delta, Tiba, and Alpha had been banned from production by the ministry last June after tests revealed their wells had become contaminated.
The ministry is engaged in regular initiatives to seize unlicensed bottled water from the market, said Health Minister Mohamed Mostafa Hamed in the press release, which did not name any examples of unlicensed brands.