With much attention focused on the safety and security of the nation’s food supply, the bottled water industry has even further elevated its efforts to provide consumers with a safe, high quality product. Numerous federal and state regulations and standards already in place, coupled with the bottled water industry’s use of enhanced learning and security systems to help ensure the safety and security of our products, mean that consumers can trust and rely upon their bottled water brand of choice.
Bottled water is fully regulated as a packaged food product by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and bound by FDA’s quality, safety, inspection and labeling requirements. Bottled water products are required to comply at all times with FDA Standards of Quality. As with other food products, bottled water is subject to FDA recall and misbranding or adulteration provisions, which help further ensure that only safe, high quality bottled water products reach the marketplace.
In addition to federal and state regulations, members of the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) are required to adhere to standards in the IBWA Model Code that, in several cases, are stricter than FDA and state bottled water regulations. The IBWA Model Code is enforced through a mandatory, annual, unannounced plant inspection by an independent, third-party organization.
The following measures are employed by IBWA member bottlers to help ensure the safety of the bottled water brands they produce:
- SOURCES AND FACILITIES ARE SECURE AND MONITORED – Natural bottled water products, such as spring water or artesian water, come from well-protected, underground water sources. The water is collected at sites and bottled at facilities with security systems that may include controlled access to the plant and critical production areas, gating, motion sensors, electronic contact security alarms, and tamper-proof locks. Water intake systems are sanitary and sealed. For brands that utilize community water systems as their source, bottlers work in concert with community water authorities to ensure the security and safety of the system’s source and the community’s water and employ equivalent security measures at the bottling plant.
- ROUTINE TESTING – Water used to produce bottled water is tested both as it enters the plant, during production and as finished product. Multiple tests and regular screening are performed by trained quality control technicians to evaluate microbial, physical and chemical quality. Such screening can be used to detect the presence of agents that may be an indicator of product contamination. These protection measures and other quality control programs help ensure that substandard products do not reach the market.
- A MULTI-BARRIER APPROACH – Bottled water products are produced utilizing a multi-barrier approach, from source to finished product, that helps prevent possible harmful microorganisms from contaminating the finished product as well as storage, production, and transportation equipment. Measures in a multi-barrier approach may include source protection, source monitoring, reverse osmosis, distillation, filtration, ozonation or ultraviolet (UV) light. Many of the steps in a multi-barrier system may be effective in safeguarding bottled water from microbiological and other contamination. Piping in and out of plants, as well as storage silos and water tankers are also maintained through daily sanitation procedures. In addition, bottled water products are bottled in a controlled, sanitary environment to prevent contamination during the filling operation.
- HAACP CONTROLS – IBWA members are required to employ a HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) approach to quality assurance. This practice scrutinizes every step of the production process – from source to finished product – that are critically important to the safety of the product and puts in place systems to help ensure that all safety and quality control processes are functioning effectively. Identification of risk and severity of health effects and control measures for specific biological, chemical and physical agents are included. Widely used in the food and pharmaceutical industries, the FDA considers HACCP a comprehensive method for assuring product safety.
- PACKAGE PROTECTION FOR CONSUMERS – Virtually all bottled water producers utilize packages with tamper-evident seals. As with all food products, it is important that consumers visually inspect the container for anything unusual or suspicious such as a broken tamper-evident ring or seal or holes in the bottle. Consumers should also look for any unusual appearances or odors when consuming any product. If there are any concerns or evidence of substandard or product that has been tampered with, consumers should contact the company or distributor immediately to arrange for retrieval and testing of the product.
- INFORMATION SHARING – IBWA members have access to current, comprehensive information about food security and bioterrorism prevention. IBWA is a member of the Alliance for Food Security, a coalition of food industry, federal and state government, and law enforcement organizations dedicated to developing and disseminating expert information about food security systems and processes and other related matters.IBWA has also provided members with a detailed security checklist that provides information and resources covering the entire bottled water production process, the bottled water plant and surrounding grounds, warehouses and storage facilities, sources, employees and suppliers. Also included are crisis preparedness and response, and emergency contact information.
- WHAT IS IBWA? – The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is the authoritative source of information about all types of bottled waters. Founded in 1958, IBWA member companies account for more than 80 percent of all bottled water sales in the U.S. IBWA’s membership includes U.S. and international bottlers, distributors and suppliers. IBWA is committed to working with state and federal governments, in concert with the IBWA Model Code, to set stringent bottled water standards for safe, high quality products. Consumers can contact IBWA at 1-800-WATER-11 or log onto IBWA’s web site (www.bottledwater.org) for more information about bottled water and a list of members’ brands.