Dispelling False Claims About Bottled Water
By Jill Culora
A large volume of misleading information circulates in the media and online about bottled water. The IBWA Bottled Water Benefits Task Force, a group that identifies and compiles scientific support showing the benefits of drinking water, has identified some of the most common false claims about bottled water and provided the facts to refute them.
False Claim No. 1: Bottled water is unnecessary and wasteful due to the environmental impact of the packaging.
Fact: Bottled water packaging is 100 percent recyclable. A growing number of bottled water producers have introduced much lighter weight bottles and are using recycled material in their packaging. Bottled water is just one of thousands of consumer goods that are packaged in plastic containers and any efforts to reduce environmental impact of packaging must focus on all consumer goods and not target just one industry. While much needs to be done to improve recycling rates, bottled water containers make up only 0.3 percent of the entire municipal waste stream in the United States. Clearly, bottled water containers are not making the significant contribution to our landfills as environmental activists claim.
False Claim No. 2:
Bottled water means less attention to public drinking water systems.
The bottled water industry supports a strong and effective municipal system. Some bottled water companies use municipal water systems as a source for their products. Bottled water companies are ratepayers who support municipal systems and, like everyone else, they don’t want to see the systems further deteriorate. However, any proposal to improve tap water infrastructure must be funded in an equitable manner among all water consumers.
False Claim No. 3:
Bottled water competes with tap water.
It’s not a bottled water versus tap water issue. Drinking water is a good thing, whether from the tap or the bottle. Bottled water competes with other beverages in bottles – such as carbonated sodas, juices, and teas – that are consumed in a variety of settings: movie theaters, sports stadiums, special events, cars, airplanes, as well as at home and in the office.
False Claim No. 4:
Bottled water is unregulated or not as regulated as tap water.
Bottled water is comprehensively and stringently regulated at both the federal and state levels to ensure safety and quality. Bottled water must meet the U. S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) general food regulations as well as standards of identity, standards of quality, good manufacturing practices, and labeling requirements specific to bottled water. Moreover, federal law requires that the FDA regulations for bottled water be as protective of the public health as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards for tap water.
Bottled water is a healthy alternative to other beverages for people seeking to avoid chlorine, calories, sugar, sweeteners, caffeine, colorants, and other additives. Also, many people choose bottled water over tap because they prefer its taste and lack of chemical odor.
False Claim No. 5:
40 percent of all bottled water is just municipal water.
Some bottled water companies use municipal water as their source. However, once the municipal source water comes into the bottled water plant, it typically undergoes such processes as filtration, reverse osmosis, distillation, ultra violet lights, ozonation, or other treatments before the water is placed in sanitized packaging and sealed for consumers’ protection. The bottle itself is an important safety barrier. So, those municipal source bottled waters are not just “tap water in a bottle.”
Here is a breakdown of the different types of bottled water available:
Drinking Water means water that is intended for human consumption and that is sealed in bottles or other containers with no added ingredients except that it may optionally contain safe and suitable antimicrobial agents. Fluoride may be optionally added.
Purified Water means water that has been produced by distillation, deionization, reverse osmosis, or other suitable processes while meeting the definition of purified water in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia.
Spring Water means water derived from an underground formation or aquifer from which water flows naturally to the surface of the earth. There must be a natural force causing the water to flow to the surface through a natural orifice.
Artesian Water means bottled water from a well tapping a confined aquifer in which the water level stands at some height above the top of the aquifer.
Mineral Water means water containing not less than 250 parts per million (ppm) total dissolved solids (TDS), coming from a source tapped at one or more boreholes or springs, originating from a geologically and physically protected underground water source. No minerals may be added to this water.
Sparkling Bottled Water means bottled water that, after treatment and possible replacement of carbon dioxide, contains the same amount of carbon dioxide that it had at the emergence from the source.
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False Claim No. 6:
Bottled water isn’t a good value in terms of price versus production costs.
Bottled water is available to consumers at various price points. Activists use this line to compare the price of bottled water to tap water. But for people who choose bottled water for its healthfulness and refreshing taste, the price they pay provides value for the money spent.
False Claim No. 7:
Bottled water labeling and marketing are misleading consumers by suggesting that it’s purer than tap and by having misleading depictions of the water source.
There are federal and state laws that require bottled water advertising, labeling, and marketing to be truthful and not misleading. If a company violates that standard, it is subject to hefty fines and penalties. Bottled water advertising is aimed at informing consumers about the positive attributes of this safe, healthy, convenient beverage product. Besides, the bottled water industry spends a very small amount on marketing and advertising, just $52 million collectively in 2006, compared to the $637 million spent on advertising for carbonated soft drinks and the $1 billion spent to advertise beer.
False Claim No. 8:
Multinational corporations are privatizing water by purchasing groundwater and distribution rights wherever they can.
Environmentalists use this claim to scare people into thinking that multinational companies will one day own all of the world’s water. The truth is that bottled water businesses use water in a manner similar to other beverage companies that make products in which water is the main ingredient. Bottled water companies have an outstanding and proven commitment to environmental stewardship and responsibly use resources to produce a healthy packaged beverage.
False Claim No. 9:
Bottled water production is depleting U.S. aquifers.
Bottled water companies use a very small amount of groundwater to producer their products. According to a 2005 study by the Drinking Water Research Foundation, bottled water accounts for less then 2/100 of one percent (0.02 percent) of the total groundwater withdrawn in the United States each year. The bottled water industry uses minimal amounts of groundwater to produce this important consumer product and does so with great efficiency. Bottled water companies actively support comprehensive groundwater management practices that are science-based, treat all users equitably, are multi-jurisdictional, and provide for future needs of this important resource. Many bottled water producers have been around for decades, and some for centuries. In order to maintain a viable business, they must be good stewards of the environment because they have a vested interest in protecting groundwater sources for future generations.
False Claim No. 10:
Bottled water that is manufactured and distributed solely within one state is not subject to federal regulations.
Courts have held that if any component of a food product moves across a state line, then FDA has jurisdiction over the finished product regardless if the product itself moved across the state line. Virtually all bottled water in the United States has components – be it caps, labeling, or label glue – that are shipped across a state line; therefore, FDA comprehensively and stringently regulates this product at the both the federal and state levels.
False Claim No. 11:
Bottled water is not safe because the plastic bottles leach harmful chemicals into the products.
All plastic food and beverage containers, including those used to package bottled water must meet or exceed all FDA requirements. FDA clears all food-contact plastics for their intended use based on migration and safety data. The clearance process includes stringent requirements for estimating the levels at which such materials may transfer to the diet. FDA’s safety criteria require extensive toxicity testing for any substance that may be ingested at more than negligible levels. That means FDA has affirmatively determined that, when cleared plastics are used as intended in food-contact applications, the nature and amount of substances that may migrate, if any, are safe.
False Claim No. 12:
People don’t need to drink as much water as they are being told.
A National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report in 2004 acknowledged the importance of water in staying hydrated and found that all beverages and foods contribute to hydration. The study said men are adequately hydrated by consuming 100 ounces of fluids per day, including drinking water and other beverages, and women at a level of just more than 72 ounces. That does, indeed, give support to – and goes beyond – the general guidance to consume eight, 8-ounce (64 ounces) servings of water each day. For consumers who choose water as a beverage for hydration and refreshment, bottled water is an excellent choice because of its consistent safety, quality, good taste, and convenience.
Now that we’ve set the record straight, DWRF needs you to help spread the word about bottled water facts. You can do this by following the steps below and by sharing this article with both bottled water supporters and skeptics.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Encourage your customers to dispose of empty water bottles responsibly by recycling. Bottlers with customers who do not have a curbside recycling program should write letters to their municipalities encouraging the local government to start up a recycling program.
Education your community about the testing and quality standards that are required to deliver pure fresh bottled water to your customer base.
Remind people that they can be confident that bottled water is a great value and has the lowest water footprint of any packaged beverage.
Let people know that bottled water is fully regulated by FDA, whose standards of quality are as stringent and as protective of the public health as EPA regulation for tap water.
Jill Culora is a communications consultant for DWRF. She can be reached by clicking here.