Safety of Bottled Water

In response to “FDA Oversight of Bottled Water Assailed” (Part A, April 11):

The real question brought about by the recent House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing is, “Is bottled water a safe, consumable product?”

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and other reliable scientific sources, the answer is yes. Fred Shank, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, testified at the hearing that “we have no reason to question the safety of bottled water. Based on our experience, FDA considers bottled water to have a low potential for contamination or for causing sickness.”

The CDC, the World Health Organization and the FDA cite no reported cases of illness in the U.S. due to the ingestion of bottled water. However, the CDC has reported 110,000 cases of illness caused by ingesting contaminated tap water.


In my testimony before the subcommittee I outlined the four layers of bottled water regulations that serve as checks and balances for the production of bottled water. Layers of protection exist on the federal, state and bottler level.

On the federal level, bottled water products must comply with the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the same protection as afforded to other food products. The act also requires that bottled water meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum contaminant levels for drinking water as they are adopted by FDA.

Fourteen states representing 70% of industry volume go beyond federal regulations and have adopted comprehensive standards for bottled water regulation. California has the most stringent regulations for bottled water.

Imported bottled waters must meet certain federal and state standards as well as standards within their own countries, and for European bottlers, standards set by the European Economic Community. In addition, IBWA requires a certificate of inspection for bottler members selling products in the U.S. that are bottled outside of the U.S.


Bottler members of the International Bottled Water Assn. must submit to an annual unannounced plant inspection administered by an independent internationally recognized third-party inspection agency.

To say that the consumer is not protected is to say that the multiple layers of protection at the federal, state and bottler level don’t exist.


Executive Vice President & CEO

International Bottled Water Assn.

Alexandria, Va.