Those five gallon water bottles can potentially be harmful to your health – here’s what the government’s doing about it…

How many times are those plastic five-gallon water bottles in Dubai refilled? It turns out that Dubai Municipality has a rule that means legally a company can only reuse the bottles 33 times. 

Well there’s a now a smart system that tracks whether water companies are actually sticking to this ruling.

The system is called SICPA, and it’s a track and trace technology that allows consumers to scan goods to confirm a product’s origin and, in the case of mineral water, how many times a bottle has been filled.


Why 33 times? Well studies have shown that the bottles can be safely refilled 35 times in Dubai’s hot conditions. Any more refills and there’s a chance that the plastic bottles will release carcinogenic matter, as well as compounds that can be disruptive to a person’s endocrine system, including estrogen.

According to a study in Environmental Health Perspectives “prolonged exposure to sunlight and high temperatures can cause leaching of chemicals from PET bottles into fluid contents”. 

“First thing you can be sure is that the water is from the original company. There have been cases when some companies refill the bottles of others and sell them. With this system, you can make sure that it came from the factory of the original company,” Ameenah Ahmad Mohammad, director of Dubai Accreditation Centre told Gulf News

“The laser engraving in the smart labels rejects water bottles that have crossed the permitted number of refills during the water filling procedure in the production line. If they manually fill it and send it to the market, inspectors can verify it by reading the smart label and reject it and fine the violators,” she added.

*What’s in the milk in Dubai*
*No health insurance? No Dubai residency visa*

“We will be able to trace bottled water and monitor the safety of both the container and the contents by means of smart labelling and laser engraving,” said Hussain Nasser Lootah, director-general of Dubai Municipality. “This method will enable us to know how many times the bottle has been used and analyse different testing parameters for the water.”


The tracking technology will be rolled out for bottled water first, and will be mandatory for all 36 companies in Dubai that sell bottled water. It will then be rolled out for Halal products in the city.

It will eventually be used to track a large variety of products such as packaged foods, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, dairy products and food supplements. It will ensure that these products are fresh, genuine and well produced.

Back to the water: “This method will enable us to know how many times the bottle has been used as well as analyse different testing parameters for the water,” explained Lootah.

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Photo: Getty Images