Forum Bottled water a safe, healthy option
The bottled water industry takes issue with several false and misleading claims made in Larry Bingaman’s Op-Ed, “Ditch the bottle and turn to tap water,” published by Hearst Connecticut Media.
It is very important for people to drink water. The International Bottled Water Association and its members promote and encourage the consumption of all water — tap, filtered and bottled. Bottled water is a healthy alternative to carbonated soft drinks and other sugary beverages. This is particularly important as our nation faces increasingly high rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Bottled water is the No. 1 packaged beverage product in the United States (by volume) for the third year in a row because consumers are choosing a safe, healthy and convenient product that tastes great and helps them stay hydrated. Efforts to discourage people from drinking bottled water are not in the public interest.
Bottled water, as a packaged food product, is strictly and comprehensively regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Federal law requires that FDA bottled water regulations be as protective of the public health as standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency for tap water. In fact, in some cases, such as lead, the FDA bottled water regulations are more stringent than the EPA tap water standards. In addition, on a gallon-for-gallon basis, bottled water is required by law to be tested for safety at least 30 times more often than tap water.
Regarding plastic use, bottled water has the smallest environmental footprint of any packaged beverage. Bottled water containers use much less PET plastic than soft drink containers (9.89 grams vs. 23.9 grams, on average for 16.9-ounce containers). Soft drinks and other sugary beverages need thicker plastic containers due to their carbonation and/or bottling processes. The latest data from the Beverage Marketing Corp. shows that since 2006, 85 percent of the growth in bottled water sales has come from people switching from carbonated soft drinks, juices and milk. Consumers who switch to bottled water are choosing fewer caloric drinks and also a product that uses 58.6 percent less plastic.
Because Mr. Bingaman mentions the Consumer Confidence Report from the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority, that report warrants a review. Under EPA regulations, tap water is deemed to meet the EPA’s maximum contaminant levels for certain disinfectant byproducts as long as the average amount doesn’t exceed the maximum level. However, bottled water regulations do not allow averaging test results for any regulated substance. Even one exceedance of an FDA standard of quality causes the bottled water product to be adulterated and misbranded. That product would then be subject to FDA enforcement actions, including recalls, warning letters and product seizures. This helps ensure that adulterated and mislabeled products do not reach consumers. According to SCCRWA’s latest Consumer Confidence Report, on at least one occasion their tap water exceeded the FDA bottled water levels for two substances that are carcinogenic and have been associated with miscarriages (total haloacetic acids and total trihalomethanes). Because they can average their testing results, SSCRWA is in compliance with the EPA regulations.
Mr. Bingaman mentions microplastics focusing solely on bottled water. It is important to note that since microplastic particles are ubiquitous — found in soil, air and (tap) water — assessing their impact goes beyond just bottled water. There currently is no scientific consensus on a testing methodology or the potential health impacts of microplastic particles. Because there is no scientific evidence to suggest that microplastic particles pose a health risk, FDA has not issued any regulations concerning these substances in foods and beverages. Therefore, reports in the media and online do nothing more than unnecessarily scare consumers.
Nearly all Americans (93 percent) want bottled water to be available wherever other drinks are sold, according to a recent Harris Poll. And most people (74 percent) drink both tap water and bottled water. Among those surveyed, 89 percent said they drink bottled water while they travel, 82 percent of employed Americans drink it at work and 75 percent of all people drink it at home.
Bottled water is among the safest food products on the market. Consumers can remain confident that bottled water, like all food and beverages, is strictly regulated by the FDA and is safe to drink.
Joseph K. Doss is president and CEO of the International Bottled Water Association.