UK agency warns about ‘Zam Zam’ water on sale

Syed Nahas Pasha

London, Aug 18 ( – The government’s Food Standard s Agency (FSA) in Britain has advised Muslims that they should consider avoiding drinking bottled water described or labelled as Zam Zam water.

The agency says scientific tests have found that ‘Zam Zam’ water sold in the UK, or brought into the UK for personal consumption, may contain high levels of arsenic or nitrates.

Tests carried out on water described as Zam Zam in the UK over the past few years, including water brought into the country for personal consumption, have indicated the presence of arsenic at almost three times the legal limit, it says.

The warning has come anew after similar warning by the authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that confiscated “fake bottles” labeled as Zam Zam water earlier this year, according to several media reports.

The fake Zam Zam bottles could contain regular or substandard drinking water as the sale of holy water is not allowed in the UAE, Gulf News said in a report, headlined ‘UAE residents told to avoid buying Zam Zam water’ in May.

In Britain, the food safety regulator has also said it was not sure about the source of ‘Zam Zam’ water sold without authorisation there.

“Muslims need to be aware of the health risks associated with drinking this water. Drinking ‘Zam Zam’ water that is contaminated with arsenic could contribute to increasing people’s risk of cancer,” the UK agency says in a regular safety warning to the people.

“However, if anyone has occasionally drunk small amounts of this labeled ‘Zam Zam’ water, the risk to health for adults and older children would be very low,” it says.

“People should consider avoiding drinking any water described as Zam Zam because there is no completely safe level of arsenic in water – and the more arsenic consumed the greater the risk,” it says.

“Infants may also be sensitive to the level of nitrate present so we do not recommend that they are given the water to drink,” the FSA says.

The regulator says as per Saudi Arabian law, export of Zam Zam water for sale is illegal and the British regulator was uncertain about the origin of the bottled water on sale.

“Zam Zam water is sacred to Muslims and comes from a specific source in Saudi Arabia. Under Saudi law, Zam Zam water cannot be exported from Saudi Arabia for sale. Any water on sale in the UK that is labelled as Zam Zam is, therefore, of uncertain origin,” it says.

The FSA has previously consulted on this issue with its Muslim Organisations Working Group, comprising representatives from Muslim community groups and companies involved with the production of halal food, which advises the agency on foods appropriate for Muslim faith groups.

If consumers find any water on sale that is labelled as Zam Zam, they should contact the local authority enforcement office at their local council so they can investigate further, the agency says.

The well of Zam Zam is located on the Masjid al-Haram premises near the Kaaba, the holiest place in Islam.

According to Islamic belief, it was a miraculously-generated source of water from Allah, as it originated thousands of years ago when Hazarat Ibrahim’s infant son (Hazarat) Ismail was thirsty and kept crying for water and was kicking at the ground when water gushed out.

Millions of devotees visit the well each year while performing Hajj or Umrah pilgrimages and drink its water.

Many Muslims also consider the Zam Zam well a contemporary miracle, never having gone dry despite the millions of liters of water consumed every year.