The consumption of bottled and plastic-bagged drinking water in Tanzania has increased largely because of the deteriorating quality of tap water. It is uncertain whether these water products are safe for drinking. In this study, the microbiological quality of bottled and plastic-bagged drinking water sold in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, was investigated. One hundred and thirty samples representing 13 brands of bottled water collected from shops, supermarkets and street vendors were analysed for total coliform and faecal coliform organisms as well as heterotrophic bacteria. These were compared with 61 samples of tap water. Heterotrophic bacteria were detected in 92% of the bottled water samples analysed. Total and faecal coliform bacteria were present in 4.6% and 3.6%, respectively, of samples analysed with a tendency for higher contamination rates in plastic-bagged drinking water. Microbiological quality of tap water was found to be worse compared with bottled water, with 49.2% and 26.2% of sampling points showing the presence of total coliform and faecal coliform organisms, respectively. The results suggest caution and vigilance to avert outbreaks of waterborne diseases from these types of drinking water.

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