LTE Response to June 28, 2003 Editorial in the Los Angeles Times(AB 83)

LTE Response to June 28, 2003 Editorial in the Los Angeles Times(AB 83)

July 2, 2003

Letters to the Editor

The Los Angeles Times

Via E-mail


To the Editor:

With the stroke of a pen, the Los Angeles Times has demonstrated a fundamental lack of understanding about the federal and state standards and regulations that protect bottled water consumers in California and the rest of the nation. Stating that it would “hardly matter” to do away with US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) bottled water regulatory oversight, the Times has shown that it would willingly relegate decades of one of the nation’s regulatory success stories to the trash heap (“Water, and What Else?” Los Angeles Times editorial, June 28, 2003). In supporting California Assembly bill AB 83, which would radically change the basic regulatory framework for bottled water in California, the Times and the bill’s sponsors have decided that, in the midst of California’s fiscal and political meltdown, it’s time to fix a system that isn’t broken. In fact, the strong combination of FDA and California Food and Drug Branch regulations and standards does an excellent job of protecting and informing consumers with regard to bottled water safety and quality. Despite all of the propaganda offered, bill sponsors have yet to clearly — or even vaguely, for that matter — identify the need for a bill like AB 83.

By taking bottled water jurisdiction away from the California Food and Drug Branch and regulating it as a public utility, AB 83 represents a costly and radical change to current federal and state laws that provide a comprehensive legal framework for regulation of bottled water as a food product. As a packaged food, bottled water must comply with standards of quality, testing, Good Manufacturing Practices, Standards of Identity, enforcement and sanctions, and labeling. By subjecting bottled water to public water-style customer notices (not required of other food products, even those where the primary ingredient is water), AB 83 would eliminate well established California bottled water laws including measures passed just three short years ago by the California Assembly, which require a telephone number and mailing address on bottled water labels so consumers can easily contact the company for the information that the bill seeks to require from companies.

For what reason would proponents of AB 83 seek to dismantle a law that already exists within the food regulatory framework?

As the sponsors of AB 83, themselves, have stated, there are no health or safety needs that compel the changes sought in AB 83. In fact, the current bottled water law under federal and California food code require that bottled water standards of quality are, at a minimum, at least as stringent and no less protective of public health than those for community drinking water systems. However, unlike a community water system that does not comply with US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or California standards, bottled water cannot continue to “flow” to the consumer if it does not meet FDA or state laws. Why? Because under FDA and California food regulation, bottled water is subject to enforcement actions ranging from warning letters to product seizures, which help ensure that adulterated or mislabeled products do not reach the consumer.

As California faces the elimination of critical services such as health care and education, sponsors of AB 83 would rather waste time and money to make bottled water a public water utility without providing any evidence that it is needed. This begs the question, “Why?”


Stephen R. Kay

IBWA Vice President, Communications