What is bottled water?

Bottled water is a great beverage choice for hydration and refreshment because of its consistent safety, quality, good taste and convenience. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fully regulates bottled water as a packaged food product and requires bottled water to adhere to FDA’s extensive food safety, labeling and inspection requirements. Bottled water is also subject to state regulations and, at the industry level, members of the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) are required to follow the IBWA Model Code.


Water is classified as “bottled water” or “drinking water” when it meets all applicable federal and state standards, is sealed in a sanitary container and is sold for human consumption. By law, FDA standards for bottled water must be at least as stringent and protective of public health as standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for public water systems.


Some beverages containing certain ingredients or additives may cause that product to be classified as a soft drink, dietary supplement or some other categorization. Soda water, seltzer water and tonic water are not considered bottled waters. They are regulated differently, may contain sugar and calories and are classified as soft drinks.


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What are the different types of bottled water?

FDA has established a bottled water Standard of Identity to define the several different types of bottled water based on specific characteristics of the product. Bottled water products meeting the Standard of Identity may be labeled as bottled water or drinking water, or one or more of the following terms:


Spring Water – Bottled water derived from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the surface of the earth. Spring water must be collected only at the spring or through a borehole tapping the underground formation feeding the spring. Spring water collected with the use of an external force must be from the same underground stratum as the spring and must have all the physical properties before treatment, and be of the same composition and quality as the water that flows naturally to the surface of the earth.


Purified Water – Water that has been produced by distillation, deionization, reverse osmosis or other suitable processes while meeting the definition of purified water in the United States Pharmacopoeia may be labeled as purified bottled water. Other suitable product names for bottled water treated by one of the above processes may include “distilled water” if it is produced by distillation, deionized water” if it is produced by deionization or “reverse osmosis water” if the process used is reverse osmosis. Alternatively, “___ drinking water” can be used with the blank being filled in with one of the terms defined in this paragraph (e.g., “purified drinking water” or “distilled drinking water”).


Mineral Water – Bottled water containing not less than 250 parts per million total dissolved solids may be labeled as mineral water. Mineral water is distinguished from other types of bottled water by its constant level and relative proportions of mineral and trace elements at the point of emergence from the source. No minerals can be added to this product.


Sparkling Bottled Water – Water that after treatment, and possible replacement with carbon dioxide, contains the same amount of carbon dioxide that it had as it emerged from the source. Sparkling bottled waters may be labeled as “sparkling drinking water,” “sparkling mineral water,” “sparkling spring water,” etc.


Artesian Water/Artesian Well Water – Bottled water from a well that taps a confined aquifer (a water-bearing underground layer of rock or sand) in which the water level stands at some height above the top of the aquifer.


Well Water – Bottled water from a hole bored, drilled or otherwise constructed in the ground, which taps the water aquifer.


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How do I know my water is safe?

Consumers can trust that bottled water is safe for many reasons. First, bottled water is strictly regulated at the federal level by FDA and at the state level by state agencies. By law, FDA standards for bottled water must be at least as stringent and protective of public health as standards set by EPA for public water systems. This helps ensure that bottled water sold in the United States meets stringent standards for safety, quality and labeling. In addition, members of IBWA must meet strict industry standards required by the IBWA Model Code, which in several cases are stricter than FDA, state or EPA’s public drinking water standards. To help ensure that bottled water is as safe and of the highest quality possible, all IBWA members use one or more of the following practices: source protection and monitoring, reverse osmosis, distillation, filtration, ozonation and ultraviolet light.


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How is bottled water different from tap water?

Bottled water is produced and distributed as a packaged food product and made specifically for drinking. As a packaged food product, bottled water must adhere to FDA Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) required of all FDA-regulated food products as well as specific GMPs unique to bottled water production and packaging. GMPs require that each container of bottled water is produced in a sanitary environment and packaged in sanitary, safety sealed containers that are approved by FDA for food contact. Bottled water is also subject to FDA food recall, misbranding and food adulteration provisions, which help ensure that consumers receive safe, high quality bottled water and protects consumers from substandard products.


In addition, members of the IBWA abide by the IBWA Model Code, which includes a voluntary system called HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points). This system was developed byFDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and adopted by IBWA as a science-based approach to helping ensure safety in every step of the bottled water process.


Taste is another reason consumers choose bottled water. Chlorine is most often used to disinfect tap water and can leave an aftertaste. Some bottlers use ozonation, a form of supercharged oxygen and/or ultraviolet light as the final disinfecting agent, neither of which leaves an aftertaste.


Bottled water provides consumers with consistent safety, high quality, good taste and convenient portability.To help ensure that bottled water is safe and of the highest quality possible, all IBWA members use one or more of the following steps found in a multi-barrier approach: source protection and monitoring, reverse osmosis, distillation, filtration, ozonation and disinfection.


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What is Cryptosporidium? Is it in my bottled water?

Cryptosporidium is a waterborne parasite that lives in animals and can be passed into surface water through their waste. Cryptosporidia from animal waste have been found in rivers, streams, lakes, reservoirs and many other types of surface water. FDA’s definition of bottled water from ground water sources [21 CFR §165.110(a)(2)(ii)] states that “ground water must not be under direct influence of surface water,” and therefore is not expected to contain Cryptosporidium.


According to FDA bottled water GMPs, bottled water companies are required to use approved sources. There are two types of sources from which bottled water can be drawn: The first consists of natural sources (e.g., springs and artesian wells). By law, these sources must be protected from surface intrusion and other environmental influences. This requirement helps ensure that surface water contaminants such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia are not present. The second source of bottled water consists approved potable municipal supplies. Bottled water companies that use these sources typically reprocess this water

using methods such as distillation, reverse osmosis, ozonation, deionization and

filtration. This ensures that the finished product is very different-in composition and taste-from the original source water.


All IBWA member companies that us municipal supplies are required by the IBWA Model Code to employ as a safeguard at least one of three processing methods recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for effective removal of microbial (surface water) contaminants, including Cryptosporidium. These processing methods are reverse osmosis, filtration and distillation. Ozonation and ultraviolet light may also be effective treatments for Cryptosporidium inactivation.


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Is bottled water regulated?

Most certainly. The bottled water industry is regulated on three levels: federal, state and, for members of IBWA, at the industry level.


FDA regulations, coupled with state and industry standards, offer consumers assurance that the bottled water they purchase is stringently regulated and tested, and is of the highest quality. IBWA has been a long-standing proponent of sensible regulations for bottled water that help to further ensure safety and protect consumers. IBWA is active at all levels of local, state and federal government, assisting in the development of such regulations, where they help enhance public safety and product quality.


More on Bottled Water Regulations


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Do imported waters have to meet the same regulations?

Yes. Any imported bottled water brand sold in the United States must meet all of the same federal and state regulations that apply to domestically produced bottled water brands.


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Is bottled water regulated differently from tap water?

Yes. Bottled water is regulated as a packaged food product by FDA and must meet all applicable food packaging regulations. EPA regulates tap water as a utility.


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How long can I store bottled water?

FDA has not established a shelf life for bottled water. IBWA advises consumers to store bottled water at room temperature (or cooler), out of direct sunlight and away from solvents and chemicals such as gasoline, paint thinners and dry cleaning chemicals. Bottled water can be used indefinitely if stored properly.


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Is my bottled water produced by an IBWA member?

The easiest way to find out if an IBWA member company produces your favorite bottled water brand is by visiting IBWA’s Web site (www.bottledwater.org).


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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’s membership includes U.S. and international bottlers, distributors and suppliers. Strengthened by IBWA Model Code, the Association is committed to working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates bottled water as a packaged food product, and state governments to set stringent standards for safe, high quality bottled water 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.


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