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Water:  A brief comparison of mineral waters

You sit down in a restaurant, make your choices, and then the waiter asks: “De l’eau minérale? Gazeuse ou plat? En bouteille? En carafe?” The waters start swirling. Too many choices! Should you buy the bottled stuff or just take your water from the faucet? If you choose bottled, should it be sparkling or still?
     Europeans have been drinking water from springs for centuries. The Romans promoted the curative qualities of spring waters, and as they crossed Gaul, they discovered many of the same sources and springs that are still in use today, including Vichy and St. Yorré near Allier in central France. The choices among brands and composition is almost mind-boggling, nearly as mind-boggling as choosing a wine or a loaf of bread.
      Drinking water in France is deemed quite safe these days, having to pass more than 60 different tests, but there are questions about whether pesticides are detected by these tests. We decided to do just a quick bit of research to find out how to distinguish these eaux minérales.


     First, still vs. sparkling:  the choice is a matter of taste rather than benefit. Neither is better or worse for you. The more north in Europe one goes, the more sparkling water is preferred. As an example, sparkling water usage averages 27% (vs. still), but Germans prefer it at a rate of 97%, the French at 13%, and the US at 16%.
     Second, curative or not? In France, true mineral water from underground springs (vs. spring water, eau de source) is much more highly regulated and may be promoted as beneficial to health. In the EU those rules are much the same although a bit less strict (so far). In the US no bottled water can be promoted as curative or beneficial in any way.
     Third, what to look for in content? French bottled waters are much higher in mineral content than those in the US, at least according to our quick survey of labels (see below). If you want even more, the website www.mineralwaters.org has an extensive comparative listing of hundreds of brands of waters.
Water1.jpg (194180 bytes)

                Sparkling waters   Eaux gazeuses

Calcium Magnesm Sodium Potassm Bicarbs Chlorides Nitrates Sulfates Fluoride Silica pH
Badoit (Fr) 190 85 150 10 1300 40 0 40 1 35 6.0
Perrier (Fr) 147.3 3.4 9 .6 390 21.5 18 33 .12 0 5.5
St. Jean (Fr) 76 25 228 36 908 16 1.4 52 0 0 6.0
St. Yorre (Fr) 90 11 1708 132 4368 322 0 17 9 0 6.6
Vichy (Fr) 90 9 1265 71 3245 227 2 129 5 0 6.8
Volcan (Fr) 196.6 34.5 13 1.3 420 0 0 0 0 .23 -
San Pelegrino (It) 208 55.9 43.6 2.7 135.5 74.3 .45 549.2 .52 9 7.7
Poland Spring (US) 4.1 1 1.5 .5 396.5 1.6 0 5.3 0 1.7 6.5
Gerolsteiner (Ger) 347 108 119 10.8 1817 39.7 5.1 36.3 .21 40.2 -
 

                Still waters   Eaux plates

Calcium Magnesm Sodium Potassm Bicarbs Chlorides Nitrates Sulfates Fluoride Silica pH
Carrefour (Fr) 4.1 1.7 2.7 .9 258 .9 .8 1.1 0 32.7 7.3
Casino (Fr) 243 77 45 8 295 66 .5 0 2.1 0 7.0
Contrex (Fr) 451 66 8 3 386 6 1 1058 .32 0 -
Cristalline (Fr) 44 24 23 2 287 5 1 3 0 0 7.6
Evian (Fr) 78 23 5.5 .75 357 2.2 3.8 10 0 13.5 7.2
Hepa (Fr) 555 110 14 0 403 0 3.9 1479 0 0 7.0
Vittel (Fr) 202 36 3.8 0 402 0 4.6 306 .28 0 7.5
Volvic (Fr) 11.5 8 11.6 6.2 71 13.5 6.3 8.1 0 31.7 7.0
Aquafina (Can) 35 22 11 4 46 71 0 3 0 0 7
Ozarka (US) 2 1.2 2.3 0 4.9 3.5 0 2.1 0 0 6.6
 


    
   General consensus is that calcium, magnesium and potassium are more desirable; sulfates, nitrates and silica are less desirable...but all depends on your own health situation. Other than that, you’re on your own.
     Fourth, who drinks what? Italians lead Europeans in per capita bottled water consumption at 155 liters per year, about 45/55% still vs. sparkling, followed by the Belgians at 123 liters per year. French consumption is in the middle range at 112 liters per person per year. US figures are harder to come by, but the Beverage Marketing Group maintains that Americans have nearly tripled their consumption of still bottled water in the past ten years…a great marketing story in itself!
     Conclusions? Bottled vs. tap, check your local water supply. The French tend to choose water in a carafe, unless at a grand restaurant, but drink bottled water at home. Our preferences? As above, but when buying bottled, we prefer Badoit for sparkling, Volvic for still water, tapwater (eau de robinet) in a pinch!

For complete information on water comparisons, visit
www.mineralwaters.org


Which brands have the most of what
 among the bottled waters of France?

By content: Sparkling Still
Calcium Badoit Hepa
Magnesium Badoit Hepa
Sodium St Yorré Casino
Potassium St Yorré Casino
Bicarbs St Yorré Hepa
Chlorides St Yorré Casino
Nitrates Perrier Volvic
Sulfates Vichy Contrex
Fluoride St Yorré Casino


 

 

 

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