Water Industry Demands Full Disclosure on Bottled Water Contaminants

Updated 10:30 AM ET March 1, 2000

DENVER, March 1 /PRNewswire/ -- The American Water Works Association (AWWA) today urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require additional water quality information on bottled water labels. AWWA's recommendation came in response to the bottled water industry's claim that providing such information to consumers was "unnecessary".

"Protecting public health demands full disclosure from drinking water suppliers, even if they supply their water in a bottle," said AWWA Executive Director Jack Hoffbuhr. "Water utilities already provide the public with easy access to drinking water quality information. The FDA is right to hold water bottlers to the same standard."

Under federal law, any packaged or bottled foodstuff is considered a food and falls under the purview of the FDA. This technicality allows water bottlers to meet less rigorous testing, treatment and public notification regulations than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) demands of community water suppliers. Unlike water utilities, water bottlers are not currently required to actively inform the public about the quality of the water they bottle.

During the past 15 years, personal bottled water consumption in the U.S. has risen over 300 percent. In 1998, American consumers bought almost $5 billion worth of bottled water and purchases are expected to rise to $6.4 billion by 2003. To better inform bottled water drinkers about the quality of bottled water, the FDA has proposed that additional water quality information be printed on the labels of bottled water. Although bottled water suppliers have contended this is unnecessary, a 1999 report from the Natural Resources Defense Council found one-third of tested bottled water had levels of bacteria in violation of USEPA quality standards.

"Water suppliers have an obligation to produce safe, clean drinking water, whether it comes from a tap or a bottle," Hoffbuhr said. "Unfortunately, the public remains uninformed about bottled water quality, including what -- if any -- treatment water bottlers undertake before selling their product."