Environmental Working Group’s New Report on Bottled Water Labels Fails To Identify a Single Violation of FDA’s Regulations or Requirements
July 08, 2009
(Alexandria, VA) A report on bottled water labeling released at a hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on July 8, 2009 submitted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) did not make any claim of violations of FDA labeling requirements. According to Joe Doss, the International Bottled Water Association’s (IBWA) President and CEO, who testified at the hearing, “Consumers can continue to have a high confidence in bottled water’s safety and quality. There is nothing in this brief report that points to any improper labeling by water bottlers. The EWG report criticizes the FDA for allowing the term ‘purified’ water, considering it ‘ambiguous,’ but the term is an official classification that meets the strict U.S. Pharmacopeia (23rd revision) standard.” Doss continued, “The report amounts to a special interest group’s wish list of what they want to impose on bottled water but not what the law reflects.”
IBWA supports a consumer’s right to clear, accurate, and comprehensive information about the bottled water products he or she purchase. All packaged foods and beverages, including bottled water, are subject to extensive FDA labeling requirements that provide consumers with a great deal of product quality information. In addition, virtually all bottled water products include a phone number on the label that consumers can use to contact the company.
In fact, IBWA has petitioned FDA to require all bottled water labels to include a phone number. IBWA believes that the most feasible way for consumers to obtain information not already on the label is through a request to the bottler. In addition, consumers can go to the IBWA website to obtain contact information or water quality information for all IBWA member brands.
Federal law requires FDA bottled water regulations to be as protective of the public health as EPA standards for public drinking water systems. And to that end, FDA has established bottled water standards of quality for more than 90 substances. Most FDA bottled water quality standards are the same as EPA’s maximum contaminant levels for public water systems. The few differences in regulated substances are because they are not found in bottled water or they are regulated under another provision of law (such as FDA’s food additives program).
If a container of bottled water has a contaminant that exceeds an FDA standard, that fact must be disclosed on the label. Failure of a bottled water container to meet the standards of quality and to be properly labeled can subject it to recall by the company, removal from the market by FDA, and criminal penalties, including fines. If a bottled water product’s source is a public water system and the finished bottled water product does not meet the FDA Standard of Identity for “purified” or “sterile” water, the product label must disclose the public water system source.
Consumers have many options when choosing which bottled water brand to drink. If a bottled water company does not provide the information that a consumer requests, he or she can choose another brand. That is not the case with tap water. Consumers cannot choose which public water system is piped into their homes. And that is the fundamental issue: consumer choice.