Bottled water sold by Whole Foods has high levels of arsenic, tests show

Bottled water manufactured by Whole Foods and sold in its U.S. stores contains potentially harmful levels of arsenic — at least three times that of every other brand tested and just shy of the federal cap, according to Consumer Reports.

Tests of the Starkey Spring Water label showed arsenic levels ranging from 9.49 to 9.5 parts per billion, the nonprofit consumer advocacy group said. The federal threshold is 10 parts per billion, Consumer Reports said, and of the 45 brands tested from February to May, Starkey was the only brand with arsenic levels that exceeded 3 parts per billion.

In an emailed statement, Whole Foods said the company’s “highest priority is to provide customers with safe, high-quality and refreshing spring water.”

“Beyond the required annual testing by [a U.S. Food and Drug Administration] certified lab, we have an accredited third-party lab test every production run of water before it is sold,” the statement said. “These products meet all FDA requirements and are fully compliant with FDA standards for heavy metals.”

Starkey Spring Water is also carried by Amazon, though it was listed as “currently unavailable” on the e-commerce site on Wednesday morning. (Whole Foods is a unit of Amazon, whose chief executive Jeff Bezos also owns The Washington Post.) It's still being sold in Whole Foods stores and on its website for $1.99 for a one-pint bottle. According to its product label, Starkey Spring Water originates from the Starkey Hot Springs in Idaho and is “deep down good. 11,000 years old.”

Whole Foods introduced Starkey Spring Water in 2015. The next year, according to Consumer Reports, the retailer recalled more than 2,000 cases of water after tests showed arsenic levels that approached or exceeded the federal limit of 10 parts per billion. In 2019, Consumer Reports tests showed that Starkey Spring water contained levels approaching or exceeding the federal limit of 10 parts per billion.

James Dickerson, Consumer Reports' chief scientific officer, said drinking one bottle probably won't harm people. But he cautioned that the risk grows with regular use.

“Regular consumption of even small amounts of the heavy metal over extended periods increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and lower IQ scores in children, and poses other health issues as well,” Dickerson said in a news release.