10 News investigates contaminated bottled "premium" water

12:35 AM, Mar 1, 2011   |    comments
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TAMPA BAY, Florida - A new entrant into the premium water wars promises a more effective way of delivering nutrients to your body.  But it could be delivering more bacteria than vitamins or minerals.

A 10 News investigation into locally-bottled "Pyurwater" revealed contaminated water with spores growing inside.  A bottler in Brooksville also says he was asked to bottle Pyurwater using a mix that contained fecal coliform bacteria.  He refused.

A Brand is Born

Four years ago, longtime Tampa Bay resident Akin Ashekun says he thought to sell a premium water with "nanonutrients" inside. 

"Basically, when you drink water with nothing in it, it goes right through you," Ashekun said.  "But when you have water that has natural nutrients in it, now it has a tendency to stay a little bit longer in your system."

Ashekun has no background in science or medicine, but had success selling Pyurwater in local health and convenience stores.  As of January 2011, he says he was selling more than 1,000 bottles a month in 85 stores.  Each bottle sold for between $2.99 and $5.00.

Citing the health benefits of infusing microscopic nutrients into the water, he says customers raved about health benefits that included stronger muscles, lower stress, and reduction in symptoms from serious diseases like fibromyalgia and diabetes.

Even though he was careful not to make specific medical claims because he didn't have any research to back up his claim, Akin said "experience for humans is a little better than science."

What's in it?

A bottle of Pyurwater contains nutrients like glucosamine, which has been known to help exercise recovery.  However, compared to supplements sold in health stores, Pyurwater contains just trace amounts of many nutrients.

10 News purchased a bottle of Pyurwater from the Smoothie King on Swann Ave. in Tampa and shipped it to AquaPower, the company in Utah that sold Ashekun his "nanonutrients" two years ago.  They found the product had been diluted from its original state and didn't match the quantity promised on the label. 

"Best guess is that he used ultra-pure water to cut our product but in the process contaminated the solution," said Bert Wonnacott, executive vice president for AquaPower.

AquaPower also discovered spores growing the bottle, but couldn't immediately identify what exactly was growing in it.

What else is in it?

The bottler in Brooksville that refused Ashekun's business was conducting a safety test prior to firing up the assembly line.

"We got a substantial hit for...fecal coliform," said Shawn Terry with Freshwater Bottling, adding that coliform is often present in bathrooms, but never in a bottled water.  "It can do anything from nothing, where your body flushes it out, or it can make you sick, depending who drinks it."

Terry said the tainted water didn't get near his machines, but doesn't know if Ashekun's previous bottler was as careful.  A number for that bottler, supplied by Ashekun, went unanswered.

Fake Charity

Bottles of Pyurwater are also adorned with limited information on "The Recovery Project."  Customers are lead to believe that the company contributes to the Pyur Disaster Relief Foundation, which has a website that says, "Pyur Recovery Project donates much needed supplies for recovery from disasters that forever change the lives of all of those involved."

Ashekun said the project had been around for four years.  However, 10 News found no evidence of the charity registered in any of the 50 U.S. states.

"We haven't actually sent the water (anywhere) yet," said Ashekun, saying he hadn't helped victims in Haiti yet because he was waiting for the post-disaster chaos to die down.

"The foundation was just recently set up," Ashekun replied when asked why no aid had been provided in four years.   

"It was set up here in Florida," he continued, saying it was set up as an official 501(c)(3) charity.

But when indicated there were no records of the charity yet, Ashekun then said the charity was going to be set up in Delaware because it was more friendly to charities.

Still on the Shelves

The FDA is currently investigating Pyurwater, but cannot comment on open investigations. 

Meanwhile, several days after 10 News confronted Ashekun with news of possible contamination - and several weeks after Freshwater Bottling alerted him of the same thing - he sent an e-mail to 10 News reporting a full recall of the product.

"Pyurwater is fully aware of the contamination in our product," Ashekun wrote in a statement.  "An independent test would be conducted until the source of the contamination is found and the process rectified."

However, several days after the announced recall, the product was still on the shelves at several stores 10 News visited.  Ashekun reported that before the recall, PyurWater was being sold in 85 stores across the Southeast.

Check out what's in your favorite bottled water on Heather's Natural Health.

Connect with 10 News reporter Noah Pransky on Facebook at www.facebook.com/noahpransky or Twitter at www.twitter.com/noahpransky.

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