Today's consumer is an informed consumer. But with so many choices, making the right decision can sometimes be a challenge. To help you through this maze, the International Bottled Water Association has compiled answers to the most frequently asked questions about bottled water. We hope that with this information, you will be able to make the right choice for you and your family.
A: Water is classified as “bottled water” if it meets all applicable federal and state standards, is sealed in a sanitary container and is sold for human consumption. Bottled water cannot contain sweeteners or chemical additives (other than flavors, extracts or essences) and must be calorie-free and sugar-free. Flavors, extracts and essences – derived from spice or fruit – can be added to bottled water, but these additions must comprise less than one percent by weight of the final product. Beverages containing more than the one percent by weight flavor limit are classified as soft drinks, not bottled water. In addition, bottled water may be sodium-free or contain “very low” amounts of sodium. Some bottled waters contain natural or added carbonation.
A: There are several different varieties of bottled water, as defined by the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA). The product may be labeled as bottled water, drinking water or any of the following terms:
Artesian Water/Artesian Well Water: Bottled water from a well that taps a confined aquifer (a water-bearing underground layer of rock or sand) in which the water level stands at some height above the top of the aquifer.
Mineral Water: Bottled water containing not less than 250 parts per million total dissolved solids may be labeled as mineral water. Mineral water is distinguished from other types of bottled water by its constant level and relative proportions of mineral and trace elements at the point of emergence from the source. No minerals can be added to this product.
Purified Water: Water that has been produced by distillation, deionization, reverse osmosis or other suitable processes and meets the definition of purified water in the United States Pharmacopeia may be labeled as purified bottled water. Other suitable product names for bottled water treated by one of the above processes may include “distilled water” if it is produced by distillation, “deionized water” if the water is produced by deionization, or “reverse osmosis water” if the process used is reverse osmosis Alternatively, “____________drinking water” can be used with the blank being filled in with one of the terms defined in this paragraph (e.g. “purified drinking water” or “distilled drinking water”).
Sparkling Bottled Water: Water that after treatment, and possible replacement with carbon dioxide, contains the same amount of carbon dioxide that it had at emergence from the source. (An important note: soda water, seltzer water and tonic water are not considered bottled waters. They are regulated separately, may contain sugar and calories, and are considered soft drinks.)
Spring Water: Bottled water derived from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the surface of the earth. Spring water must be collected only at the spring or through a borehole tapping the underground formation finding the spring. There must be a natural force causing the water to flow to the surface through a natural orifice. Spring water collected with the use of an external force must be from the same underground stratum as the spring and must have all the physical properties, before treatment, and be of the same composition and quality as the water that flows naturally to the surface of the earth.
Well Water: Bottled water from a hole bored, drilled or otherwise constructed in the ground, which taps the water of an aquifer.
A: Consumers can trust that bottled water is safe for many reasons. The first is that bottled water is strictly regulated on the federal level by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and on the state level by state officials. This ensures that all bottled water sold in the United States meets these stringent standards. In addition, members of the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), who produce about 85% of the bottled water sold in the United States, must meet strict industry standards established by the association. These standards, contained in the IBWA “Model Code” exceed the FDA regulations currently in place for bottled water. To ensure that all their bottled water is as safe as possible and of the highest quality, all IBWA members use one or more of the following multi-barrier practices: source protection and monitoring, reverse osmosis, distillation, filtration, ozonation and disinfection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bottled water has never been responsible for an outbreak of a waterborne illness.
A: Bottled water is different from tap water in many different ways. The big difference between the two is the source of the water. While municipalities generally draw their water supply from surface water which may be subject to contamination, most bottled water (more than 75%) comes from protected underground sources. Another noticeable quality difference is that bottled water does not contain any chlorine. In place of chlorine some bottlers use ozone, a form of oxygen or ultraviolet light as the final disinfecting agent. Chlorinated water sometimes contains an off taste, and many consumers prefer the taste of bottled water where no trace of chlorine is found.
A: Cryptosporidium is a waterborne parasite that lives in animals and can be passed into the water through their waste. Cryptosporidium oocysts from animal wastes have been found in rivers, streams, lakes, reservoirs and many other types of surface water.
All bottled water companies are required to use approved sources.
There are two types of sources from which bottled water can be drawn: the first type is natural sources (i.e. springs and wells). By law, these sources must be protected from surface intrusion and other environmental influences. This requirement ensures that surface water contaminants such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia are not present.
The second source water type is approved potable municipal supplies. Bottled water companies that use these sources reprocess this water using methods such as distillation, reverse osmosis, deionization and filtration. This ensures that the finished product is very different in composition and taste from the original source water.
All IBWA member companies that use municipal supplies are encouraged to employ at least one of the three processing methods recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for effective removal of microbial (surface water) contaminants including Cryptosporidium. These processing methods are reverse osmosis, one micron absolute filtration and distillation.
A: The bottled water industry is regulated on four levels: federal, state, industry association, and individual company.
Federal regulations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), coupled with state and industry standards, offer consumers assurance that the bottled water they purchase is stringently regulated, tested and of the highest quality. The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) has been a long-standing proponent of additional federal regulations for bottled water and has been very active at all levels of local, state and federal government assisting in the development of such regulations.
Federal Regulations: Bottled water is regulated as a food product by the FDA. Bottled water companies must adhere to the FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practices, Quality Standards and Standards of Identity.
Quality Standards: All bottled water products must comply with the FDA’s Quality Standards in Section 103.35(d)(2) of Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). These standards, along with the FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practices, ensure the safety of all bottled water products from production, to packaging, to consumption.
Labeling Regulations: FDA’s labeling rules for bottled water establish standards of identity and standardized definitions for terms found on bottled water labels such as “spring,” “artesian,” “well,” “mineral,” “purified” and “distilled.” Seltzer, soda water and tonic water are considered soft drinks; therefore, they are excluded from these regulations,
Good Manufacturing Practices: Bottled water is subject to both general food Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and GMPs specific to bottled water processing and bottling. General food GMPs govern such areas as plant and ground maintenance, sanitary maintenance of buildings and fixtures, and sanitary facilities, including water supply, plumbing and sewage disposal. Bottled water GMPs provide detailed regulations governing plant construction and design, sanitary facilities and operations, equipment design and construction, production and process controls specific to the production, and processing of bottled drinking water and record keeping.
European Union: All European exporters must meet the federal and state standards as applicable. They must also meet strict standards set by the European Union. International bottler members that sell products in the U. S. must submit a certificate of inspection to IBWA.
State Standards: In addition to FDA’s extensive regulatory requirements, the bottled water industry is subject to state regulatory requirements as well. A significant responsibility of the state is inspecting, sampling, analyzing and approving sources of water. Under the federal GMP’s, only approved sources of water can be used to supply a bottling plant. Another area in which some states have important responsibilities that complement federal regulation is the certification of testing laboratories. As with any food establishment, the states perform unannounced spot inspections, and some states perform annual inspections
IBWA Standards: In addition to the state and federal standards for bottled water, IBWA bottler members are subject to another level of oversight. As a condition of membership, bottlers must submit to an annual, unannounced plant inspection administered by an independent, internationally recognized third-party inspection organization. This inspection audits quality and testing records, reviews all areas of plant operation from source through finished product, and checks compliance with FDA Quality Standards and Good Manufacturing Practices and any state regulations.
IBWA Model Code: IBWA has established a quality assurance program, a strict set of standards called the Model Code. The Model Code establishes tougher requirements than federal and state regulations.
A: Yes, imported bottled water sold in the United States must meet all of the same regulations as domestically produced bottled water.
A: Yes, bottled water is regulated by the FDA as a food product and must meet all applicable food packaging regulations. Tap water is regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is regarded as a utility.
A: Absolutely Not!
A: The Food and Drug Administration has not established a shelf life for bottled water. Bottled water can be used indefinitely if stored properly.
A: Bottled water should be stored in a cool (i.e., room temperature), dry environment away from chemicals such as household cleaning products and away from solvents such as gasoline, paint thinners and other toxic materials.
A: The easiest way to find out if your favorite bottled water brand is a member of IBWA is by calling 1-800-WATER 11. You can then receive a list of all IBWA member brands.
You can also contact this number if you have any other questions, or would like to receive more information about bottled water. The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is the trade association representing the bottled water industry.
Founded in 1958, IBWA’s member companies produce and distribute 85 percent of the bottled water sold in the United States. Our membership includes U.S. and international bottlers, distributors and suppliers.
For more information, call or write:
International Bottled Water Association
1700 Diagonal Road
Alexandria, VA 223l4