With Ramadan beginning shortly, the Food Standards Agency reminds people that they should consider avoiding drinking bottled water described or labelled as Zam Zam water. This is because tests have shown Zam Zam water sold in the UK, or brought into the UK for personal consumption, may contain high levels of arsenic or nitrates.
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.
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.
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. 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. However, if anyone has occasionally drunk small amounts of this Zam Zam water, the risk to health for adults and older children would be very low.
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 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.