Do you know if your bottled water is safe? Neither does the Food and Drug Administration.
The Wall Street Journal reports on Congressional hearings that are going on about bottled water right now, and apparently the FDA (which oversees the $11.2 billion industry) is pretty forthcoming in its non-tracking of the water.
Currently, the FDA does not monitor bottlers. FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner Joshua M. Sharfstein testified that the agency regulates bottled water as a food, and doesn’t know which companies among registered food firms make bottled water.
Recently (July 8, 2009) consumer advocates testified before the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Panel; they say bottlers should be required to disclose more information to consumers. According to the Wall Street Journal, Rep. Bart Stupak, chairman of the oversight panel, said in the past several years, bottlers have recalled water contaminated with arsenic, cleaning compounds and bacteria.
The good news is that the FDA is tightening some rules. (The industry, which includes PepsiCo Inc.’s Aquafina and Coca-Cola Co.’s Dasani, currently isn’t required to report tests that turned up contamination.)
Bottlers have until December 2009 to eliminate E. coli from bottled water products, and as early as September they have to report tests that show a “serious health threat” (whatever that means). By contrast, municipal water authorities must report dangerous contaminants within 24 hours.