Warning about drinking water described as Zam Zam

As Muslims observe Ramadan, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is reminding people to avoid drinking bottled water described or labelled as Zam Zam water. This is because tests have shown such water sold in the UK, or brought into the UK as a personal import, to contain high levels of arsenic or nitrates.

Zam Zam water is sacred to Muslims and comes from a specific source in Saudi Arabia. The FSA has 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.

Under Saudi law Zam Zam water cannot legally be exported for commercial sale. Any water on sale that is labelled as Zam Zam in the UK is therefore of uncertain origin. Muslims need to be aware of the health risks associated with drinking this water.

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

This could contribute to increasing people’s risk of cancer. People should consider avoiding drinking any water described as Zam Zam as there is no completely safe level of arsenic in water - the more arsenic consumed the greater the risk. However, if anyone has occasionally drunk small amounts of such 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.

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.