Beijing's quality control authorities will attach an "electronic identification label" to every barrel of drinking water in a bid to improve water safety.
The labels will help consumers identify whether barreled water products are fake, the Beijing News reported yesterday.
The Beijing bureau of quality and technical supervision hoped to extend the monitoring system to all of the barreled water produced in Beijing by March 15, 2008, the report said.
Twenty-eight barreled water manufacturers, including some well-known brands such as Wahaha, Robust and Huiyuan, have adopted the label system.
The move comes amid increasing public concern about the quality of barreled water, which is generally available at many of the city's office buildings and homes.
In July, a report by the Beijing Times cited an insider as saying that almost half of the water sold in the capital could be fake, causing an uproar and drawing attention from local quality authorities.
An estimated 100 million barrels were drunk in Beijing last year.
"We received complaints that some small water sellers are cheating consumers with bogus water," Bai Jianguo, a section chief from the bureau, was quoted by the Legal Times as saying.
"But when we want to pin the responsibility on someone, the manufacturers and sellers start shuffling the blame," he said.
"There is not much that we can do since it is so difficult to distinguish who is at fault."
Under the new monitoring system, a code will be printed beneath a label on the mouth of every barrel.
People can verify the authenticity of the water by calling or sending a message to 95001111, or by visiting www.95001111.com, the official website of the Product Identification, Authentification and Tracking System operated by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine. They can lodge a complaint with the bureau if the code fails to match the product.