Bottled water regulation operates on a different level than tap water. It is treated as a food in the United States, and is therefore subject to the rules and regulations of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Tap water regulation, on the other hand, is performed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and does not undergo the same rules of regulation. Additionally, the EPA’s set of rules for tap water is much more strict than those of the FDA’s for bottled water.
Bottled Water and Water Treatment
Not all bottled water goes through the FDA, however; an estimated 60-70% of bottled water is not covered by FDA rules. Bottled waters which are sold only within 1 state don’t adhere to the FDA’s rules and regulations. With about 60-70% of bottled water only being sold in one state, that same percentage is basically ignored by the FDA. Government regulation, if any, is left to the state governments.
Some bottled water doesn’t even need to go through the FDA due to labeling. The FDA has a definition of “bottled water” that exempts many bottled water’s from FDA regulation. The following products are NOT bottled water (by FDA standards) if the ingredient label simply says; “water”, “carbonated water”, “disinfected water”, “filtered water”, “seltzer water”, “soda water”, “sparkling water”, or “tonic water”. Evidently, there must be a great deal of controversy at the government level over what should be considered bottled water.
But most importantly, bottled water doesn’t need to meet the high standards that city tap water must meet in terms of water treatment, contamination, and other testing.
- On the federal level, it is not mandated that bottled water be any safer than tap water – chemical pollution standards are nearly identical.
- Depending on the contaminant being tested for, the FDA requires water treatment testing for contaminants only once a week, once a year, or once every four years. The EPA requires testing several times a day for contaminants.
This is the bottled water deception. Various studies performed by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) prove that the testing performed by the FDA is in dire need of improvement. One of the extensive studies, which has been considered “groundbreaking”, shows the following results:
- 9 out of 10 of the best selling bottled water brands either don’t disclose information about the source of the water, contamination testing, or if and how it is purified.
- Out of the 173 bottled water brands surveyed, over 50% flunked EWG’s transparency test.
- 18% of the bottled water tested failed to make known the location of their water source.
- 32% disclosed no information regarding the treatment or purity of the water.