Shannon Minerals, the Irish bottled water firm that withdrew products from supermarkets late last month, has attacked Ireland's food safety watchdog for failing to inform it of new guidelines.

Shannon, which voluntarily withdrew six batches of water following tests by the state regulator, has alleged that it was kept in the dark about new quality guidelines.

The firm said yesterday (15 December) that its water was produced in line with quality guidelines issued by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) in October 2007.

It added: "However, the results received on 27 November 2008 were tested against a different set of criteria. This new set of criteria was never brought to the attention of Shannon Minerals prior to 27 November 2008."

The FSAI has told bottled water producers to improve quality standards, following testing late last year. A number of recalls were not made public because there was not deemed to be a substantial risk to public health, an FSAI spokesperson told just-drinks.

Most cases, including the Shannon case last month, involved the presence of bacteria known as coliforms, which the FSAI said "raises concerns regarding the standards of hygiene of the source or in the bottling process".

A FSAI spokesperson today denied that the regulator had changed its quality guidelines prior to the tests on Shannon Minerals' water. "The law has not changed," she told just-drinks.

Shannon said that it took issues of quality very seriously. "Fundamentally, there is no health risk to the members of the public associated with the withdrawn products in question under either set of guidelines."

It said that facilities and products undergo testing on a daily basis.