Agencies Find Tap Water Is Better Regulated Than Bottled Water

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By Dolores M. Bernal, NEWS JUNKIE POST

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has made recommendations that bottled drinking water needs stronger labels, while public health advocates call for more action from Congress.

The report released on Wednesday says that government authorities have stricter systems that monitor contaminants in drinking tap water, than most private companies that bottle water and sell it to consumers. Bottled water companies must follow the rules and regulations dictated by the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), whereas tap water is under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protective Agency (EPA). Here is a snippet from the report:

“FDA and state bottled water labeling requirements are similar to labeling requirements for other foods, but the information provided to is less than what EPA requires of public water systems under the Safe Drinking Water Act….Public water systems must annually provide consumer confidence reports that summarize local drinking water quality information about the water’s sources, detected contaminants, and compliance with national primary drinking water regulations as well as information on the potential health effects of certain drinking water contaminants. FDA does not require bottled water companies to provide this information.”

The bottled water industry is worth $17 billion. The FDA hasn’t required bottled water companies to provide them with information about possible contaminants in the water, nor does it require them to prove that the water has been tested in certified laboratories.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a research and advocacy organization conducted an 18-month investigation on drinking bottled water and found that only 2 percent of companies that sold this water disclosed where their water came from and how the water was purified, versus 188 other companies that do not release such information.

“Many people assume bottled water is healthier and safer to drink than ordinary tap water. But some companies have lured consumers away from the tap with claims of health and purity that aren’t backed by public data,” said Jane Houlihan a senior researcher at EWG. “The ugly truth is that under lax federal law, consumers know very little about the quality of bottled water on which they spend billions every year.”

Public health and safety advocates are calling for strict oversight of the bottled water industry and to demand these companies disclose their water purification processes, instead of making it voluntary.

“Members of Congress need to understand that it has taken major public outcry, followed by proactive legislation, to provoke much of these changes,” said Kelle Louaillier, executive director for Corporate Accountability International, an organization that has compelled both Pepsi and Nestlé to label the source of their bottled water. “Starting today, Congress can work to guarantee the consumer’s right to know what exactly they are getting in these disposable plastic water bottles.”

For a bottled water scorecard, click here.

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