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Bottled water may have sickened 12 kids

/ Source: The Associated Press

A dozen students complained of feeling sick after drinking bottled water from a junior high school vending machine, but the FBI said Friday that no sign of tampering was found and initial tests detected no contamination.

Students at La Mesa Junior High School in Santa Clarita complained of nausea or discomfort on Thursday. They were examined at hospitals and released, Principal Pete Fries said Friday.

“It was kind of cloudy and it tasted kind of funny,” eighth-grader Cody Commons told KTLA-TV from a hospital Thursday night. “A couple hours later I started feeling cramps.”

No additional illnesses were reported Friday, Fries said.

“At this time, there’s no evidence that the product was deliberately tampered with,” FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said Friday.

Two students came separately to the school office Thursday with bottles of Aquafina brand water and complained of being nauseous, Fries said. The students indicated that they bought the water from a school machine and that the bottles seemed properly sealed but the water inside appeared cloudy and had an odd smell.

Other students polled in classes later complained of illness, Fries said.

In all, the 12 students said they drank from eight bottles, Fries said. Two bottles were recovered.

Field tests on the recovered bottles by a Los Angeles County Fire Department hazardous materials team found no trace of ammonia, chlorine or other contaminants, Eimiller said. She added that further tests were planned at a county lab.

The school buys the water from the manufacturer and stocks the machines, the principal said. He said the machines were shut down, the remaining bottled water was pulled and will be replaced with fresh stock.

Jeff Dahncke, spokesman for The Pepsi Bottling Group, which manufactures Aquafina, said there is no evidence any contamination was caused by the company’s manufacturing process.

The company collected bottles from the vending machine and there didn’t appear to be any adulteration “from a standpoint of the look of the product and the taste,” but more comprehensive testing will be conducted, Dahncke said.

“We view this very much as an isolated incident,” he said.

Dahncke said the bottles apparently came from a Pepsi plant in Torrance, Calif., that produced some 5,000 cases of Aquafina in a two-day run. Records on hourly testing during the run revealed no indication of contamination, he said.

Aquafina, a leading brand of bottled water, is bottled at Pepsi plants from public water sources using a seven-step purification process, according to the Aquafina Web site.