Well perhaps the Jermuk scare might not be so grave as it may have seemed, according to my mother-in-law, who studied chemistry at an early age and worked at one of the main chemical factories in Vanadzor during the Soviet era. She believes that drinking Jermuk or any other carbonated mineral water such as Bjni or even Arzni, which had anywhere between half to a quarter of the anions and cations contained in Jermuk, including calcium according to its label, is not detrimental. That is, Arzni used to have less mineral contents than Jermuk Group water until the latter apparently changed its label to suggest otherwise. Two different bottles of Jermuk Group water that I had purchased a few weeks ago had different labels showing contradicting mineral content information. I remember comparing one of them side by side with an Arzni bottle, and there were huge differences in mineral counts.
Anyway, she makes the point that for decades, especially during Soviet times, people have been taking mineral baths at spas in places where mineral springs exist, and no one was ever reported of enduring arsenic poisoning. Another thing to remember is that lots of Jermuk is exported to Russia, and it is served in the Kremlin, so in that case you can imagine that President Vladimir Putin is probably consuming it from time to time. Apparently according to her, as she is currently studying agriculture at one of the state universities in Yerevan and is taking courses in food inspection, Russian drug and food testing is very strict, and nothing found to be considered very harmful, including supposedly potentially fatal levels of arsenic, would ever be imported and sold on the market, let alone be consumed by government officials. She told me to keep drinking mineral water and not be afraid of it being dangerous to my health. I really have no reason to doubt her as she has never been wrong before in terms of what things to eat for specific purposes—her administering of various things like herbal teas and such for ailments have never had adverse results on my health nor have they not been effective to some extent. She’s fairly well read about such matters so basically I trust what she says. And according to Panorama.am in an article published on March 13, the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only tested one bottle of Jermuk to have been found having 500 micrograms of arsenic, which according to a Jermuk Group spokesperson was counterfeit.
I’ve spoken to several people and they seem to concur what I initially deduced a couple of weeks ago, that the sudden ban of Jermuk was politically motivated. As a result of the FDA’s warnings both Canada and Hong Kong have apparently stopped imports of Armenian mineral water. However, let’s not forget that in an article reported by ArmeniaLiberty.org on March 13 a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) employee running a project here named Sean Carmody admitted that “You have to drink a lot of mineral water per day to really have any effect. You have to drink around 20 liters of water a day.” Then he said regarding the scare that “‘It’s either a testing issue or a labeling issue,’ he added, demonstratively sipping Jermuk on the sidelines of a roundtable discussion on Armenia’s national food safety strategy.”
So for now, since I really no longer have serious doubts about the safety of Armenian mineral water, I will resume drinking it once again, albeit in more limited quantities. Arzni is generally an excellent alternative to Jermuk I have found, incidentally. Mind you I never bothered to buy one of those chemistry sets they sell at the end of the Vernisage to perform my own tests for arsenic levels or hire someone qualified to do so, but I think people should be OK when drinking mineral water with meals or afterwards for better digestion. Drinking Jermuk has never done me wrong at least.
Labels: Food and Drink, Healthcare