In April, Consumer Reports published an investigation into Peñafiel bottled water, which is produced by Keurig Dr. Pepper. CR's tests discovered, on average, 18.1 parts per billion (ppb) of arsenic in Peñafiel, which was tested three times. CR notified Keurig Dr. Pepper, which admitted that its own tests had found similar levels -- 17 ppb. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's standard for arsenic in bottled water is 10 ppb.
"Arsenic when present in the diet at very high levels, well above those detected in recent samples of Peñafiel, is associated with numerous chronic diseases," the company said in a press release.
However, CR points out that long-term exposure to lower levels of arsenic could increase the risk of some cancers and other health issues. Nevertheless, in April Keurig Dr. Pepper decided not to pull the product from shelves.
Now, the company has announced it will stop production for at least two weeks while it enhances its filtration systems. Meanwhile, the product will be withdrawn from the market.
In its press release, Keurig Dr. Pepper said this production stoppage and product withdrawal were done "with the knowledge of the U.S. FDA."
CR attempted to reach the FDA for comment, but it did not immediately respond. However, CR says that the FDA has quickly requested voluntary recalls in other cases involving bottled water with elevated arsenic levels.
Keurig Dr. Pepper seems to be attempting to downplay the situation, portraying it as a short-term glitch with a "small brand in the U.S." According to CR, however, the elevated arsenic levels have been present since at least 2009. And, Peñafiel has been growing quickly in the U.S. over the past few years. Last year, some 2 million cases were sold here, according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation.
The voluntary withdrawal from the market includes all unflavored Peñafiel, which comes in 600-milliliter and 1.5-liter plastic PET bottles. No flavored varieties of Peñafiel are included thus far.
If you have purchased the product, you can return it to the retailer for a full refund.
"We don't have a timetable to resume distribution in the U.S.," said a spokesperson for the company.
Manufacturers are strictly liable for any harm they cause
Many people drink bottled water because they expect it to be cleaner and better filtered than what they would receive from their home tap. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
It could be years before we know if people who regularly drink Peñafiel will become ill from the elevated arsenic levels. However, if they do, they may have a claim against Keurig Dr. Pepper.