Bottled Water Regulation
As a packaged food product, bottled water is comprehensively regulated at both the federal and state level. At the federal level, bottled water must comply with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) (21 U.S.C. §§ 301 et seq.) and several parts of Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Section 410 of FFDCA requires that the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) bottled water regulations be as protective of the public health as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) tap water standards.
Bottled Water’s Comprehensive Multi-Barrier Approach
Bottled water products, whether from groundwater or public water sources, are produced utilizing a multi-barrier approach. From source to finished product, a multi-barrier approach helps prevent possible harmful contamination to the finished product as well as storage, production, and transportation equipment. Measures in a multi-barrier approach may include one or more of the following: source protection, source monitoring, reverse osmosis, distillation, micro-filtration, carbon filtration, ozonation, ultraviolet (UV) light or other safe and effective methods. Many of the steps in a multi-barrier system may be effective in safeguarding bottled water from microbiological and other contamination.
Information on Bottled Water Labels and Websites
Information on bottled water labels is important, and bottled water companies are definitely not hiding information or keeping it secret. In fact, the bottled water industry and IBWA support a consumer’s right to clear, accurate and comprehensive information about the bottled water products they purchase.
All packaged foods and beverage products, including bottled water, have extensive labeling requirements, including a statement of the type of water that is in the container, compliance with the applicable definitions in the Standards of Identity, ingredient labeling, name and place of business of the manufacturer, packer or distributor and, if required, nutrition labeling. In addition, almost all bottled water products also have a phone number and/or website address on the label. This contact information allows consumers to get any additional information that they may want that might not already be on the label. This might include the source, treatment, and quality information.
Disclosures, such as those required by EPA in Consumer Confidence Reports (CCR) for public water systems, are not required of any food or beverage product. These products must meet the safety standards and must be manufactured according to FDA regulations. However, bottled water companies voluntarily provide consumers with access to information about their products. Consumers have multiple choices in brands of bottled water. That is not the case with their public water system. Consumers cannot make a choice of which municipal water is piped into their homes. If a bottled water company does not satisfy a consumer’s request for more information, that consumer can, and should, choose another brand.
The 2000 FDA Feasibility Study Report (65 Fed. Reg. § 51836 (2000)) looked at various ways that bottled water information could be communicated to consumers, including company contact information on the label, placing specific contaminant and other information on the label, distributing pamphlets at the point of purchase and providing information via the internet. IBWA agrees with the FDA’s conclusion that placing all of the information contained in the CCRs provided by public water systems on bottled water labels is not feasible. FDA concluded that:
“We agree with comments that stated it is not feasible to provide all of the information that is analogous to that contained in a CCR on a bottled water label. Such information would be excessive in limited label space, particularly on the small, single serving bottles. In addition, information that requires frequent changes due to changing test results may result in a misbranded product. Costs of frequent label changes that are necessary to ensure accurate information on the contents of a bottled water product, due to frequently changing information, may present an economic hardship to companies. Moreover, even annual updates that represent the contaminant history would need information to put the history for all such CCR-type information in context for the consumer and would be excessive in limited label space.”
Click here to learn more about bottled water.