According to its official website, Whole Foods’ Starkey Spring bottled water began its journey to shelves over 11,000 (!!!) years ago when melting snow atop the nearby mountains began to trickle into the 2.5-million-year-old (!!!) Imnaha Basalt volcanic formation. Thousands of years later, the heat of our planet’s fiery mantle forced the water back to the earth’s surface through cracks and fissures in the basalt, resulting in a pure, unadulterated spring water that’s “lightly mineralized and silky smooth.” Know what one of those minerals is, according to Consumer Reports, the nonprofit consumer organization dedicated to unbiased product testing? Arsenic. And arsenic, even when silky smooth, can kill you at a high enough concentration.
In a report published on Wednesday, the consumer watchdog group claims that laboratory analyses showed Starkey Spring Water contains “concerning levels of arsenic,” ranging from 9.49 to 9.56 parts per billion. Legally this is fine; federal regulations say anything under 10 parts per billion of arsenic is acceptable for water. Consumer Reports has long been urging the U.S. government to change that limit to 3 parts per billion for the sake of public safety, but so far, no dice. While enjoying the occasional bottle of Starkey Spring won’t do any damage, drinking it regularly and in high volume could potentially be a problem, as the report says that “even small amounts of the heavy metal over extended periods increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and lower IQ scores in children.”
Whole Foods responded to the report by saying that its water meets all FDA requirements for arsenic content, and told CNN that in addition to having Starkey Spring Water tested annually by an FDA-certified lab, it also contracts an accredited third-party lab to test every production run of water before it is bottled and sold.
This isn’t the first time the whistle has been blown on Starkey Spring; in 2019, laboratory testing commissioned by the Center for Environmental Health also found above-average levels of arsenic in the water, pledging that it would lobby Whole Foods to remove it from store shelves. Before we all simply accept that we’re going to have to chug a little bit of arsenic if we want to keep enjoying the minerals and silky smoothness of ancient spring waters, Consumer Reports reminds us that it tested 45 other bottled water brands and found they all had “undetectable amounts of arsenic, demonstrating that lower levels are feasible.”