Hypochlorous acid water in bottles that resemble drinking water distributed all over Taiwan

Food and media conglomerate Want Want Group faced criticism today after it was found to have donated hypochlorous acid water to be distributed to school students, bottled and labeled in a way that children my mistake it for drinking water.

The liquid is approved as an environmental hygiene product, and not for ingestion, nor for external use on the human body.

The Chiayi County Government distributed the antibacterial liquid to schools at all levels within the county, according to reports, but the education department was concerned enough to warn schools to affix “do not drink” stickers on the bottles, as the liquid itself, and the packaging could easily be mistaken for drinking water.

But some schools and teachers, still refused to distribute the “Water God” brand antibacterial liquid, fearing that some students, especially in lower grades, would not be able to distinguish the product from ordinary drinking water, even with a sticker affixed.

It’s not the first time that Want Want has been criticized for the packaging and marketing of the product.

In late February, the Taipei City Health Bureau warned Want Want over possible breaches of the Fair Trade Law and Pharmaceutical Affairs Law for false advertising, after the conglomerate offered free Water God brand liquid for public disinfection in the city.

This came after officials found that the product website mentioned efficacy over “Dermatitis, pneumonia, endocarditis, sepsis, necrotic fasciitis caused by burns or wounds, female vaginitis, diabetic infection, suppurative liver abscess , urinary tract infection, bacteremia, tinnea, onychomycosis, chicken pox, enterovirus, typhoid conjunctivitis, norovirus, sepsis, and more. This was suspected to be a violation of Article 69 of the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law.

On April 29, legislators and county representatives in Hsinchu County held a press conference to urge the company to alter its labeling and to warn people not to drink the liquid.

It was claimed at the press conference that the product resembled ordinary 600 ml bottles of mineral water, and that there had already been multiple reports of people drinking the liquid.

DPP legislator Wu Yu-qin pointed out that Water God is a low-concentration hypochlorous acid water. Because the concentration is so low, it doesn’t fall under the management of drugs and poisons under the Environmental Protection Agency, or under the administration of the Food and Drug Administration of the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

Green Party Hsinchu County MP Yu Xiao-jing said they had received complaints from people who drank the water by mistake, and still felt throat discomfort after seeing a doctor.

A representative of Want Want Group attended the press conference and said that epidemic prevention was the main motivation for the company’s widespread distribution of the product, and that the company was not motivated by its own private interests. The company representative then opened a bottle and drank some of the water, to show that it was not dangerous.

Want Want Group representative drinks hypochlorous acid water during press conference
Want Want Group representative drinks hypochlorous acid water during press conference. Picture: Liberty Times.

Want Want Group has distributed the hypochlorous acid mixture to local governments and public welfare groups all over the country. According to Food Next (foodnext.com), Taichung City received more than 30,000 bottles, Hsinchu County 38,400 bottles, Pingtung City 4,800 bottles, and Yunlin County 350,000 bottles.

After Yunlin County received its 350,000 bottles, it quickly designed and printed a “Don’t Drink!” warning sticker to affix to the product.

After Yunlin County received its 350,000 bottles, it quickly designed and printed a “Don’t Drink!” warning sticker to affix to the product. Picture: China Times via foodnext.com
Bottles with stickers added by the Wujie Township Office in Yilan County read: not to be used to wash hands, contact with skin, or drinking. Picture: Vision Magazine.

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