US FDA will not regulate Cryptosporidium in bottled water

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Tuesday that they will not need to issue regulations for the bottled water industry regarding the removal of Cryptosporidium from their products.

Cryptosporidium is a protozoan found in the intestines of birds, reptiles and some mammals, including humans. The parasite can be transmitted in contaminated water, causing cryptosporidiosis, a gastrointestinal illness with symptoms such as abdominal cramps and diarrhea that can last for weeks.

The reasoning for the FDA's decision is largely based on the fact that the water sources used for bottled water, namely ground water, are not likely to contain Cryptosporidium.

"According to industry information, approximately 75% of bottled water sold in the United States originates from ground water (e.g. artesian well water, spring water, mineral water)," indicates a notice issued by the FDA.

The other 25% of bottled water comes from public water sources--essentially tap water--which is already subject to the guidelines set in place by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure the safety of the drinking water; including limits on Cryptosporidium.

"FDA has evaluated the treatment technique requirements for the reduction of Cryptosporidium in public drinking water established in EPA regulations and finds that a standard of quality regulation for bottled water to reduce Cryptosporidium is not necessary to protect the public health," the announcement notes.

In 1998, the EPA finalized its ruling as part of the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations that required public water suppliers who used surface water--lakes, reservoirs and rivers--or ground water in contact with surface water, to limit the levels of Cryptosporidium in tap water.

By law, the FDA, which oversees the regulation of bottled water, is required to mandate all applicable EPA regulations for tap water and apply them to bottled water.

During the past two decades, Cryptosporidium parvum has become recognized as one of the most common causes of waterborne disease (drinking and recreational) among people in the US. The parasite is found in every region of the United States and throughout the world, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The very young, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are considered to at greatest risk for the illness.