IBWA Congressional Testimony Highlights Stringent Regulation of Bottled Water by FDA

International Bottled Water Association | NEWS RELEASE | July 8, 2009

IBWA Congressional Testimony Highlights Stringent Regulation of Bottled Water by FDA

(Washington, DC) – The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) today presented testimony to the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Energy and Commerce Committee of U.S. House of Representatives, on the regulation of bottled water.  Addressing these issues, IBWA President and CEO Joe Doss stated:  “Bottled water is comprehensively and stringently regulated in the United States at both the federal and state levels, which helps ensure its safety and quality. At the federal level, bottled water is regulated as a packaged food product by the FDA under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. It must meet FDA’s general food regulations as well as standards of identity, standards of quality, good manufacturing practices and labeling requirements specifically promulgated for bottled water.”

Mr. Doss noted:  “As with other packaged foods and beverages, bottled water must meet FDA’s general food regulations, which include extensive labeling requirements for ingredients; the name and place of business of the manufacturer, packer or distributor; the product’s net weight; and, if required, nutrition labeling. In addition, FDA has promulgated separate standards of identity (including labeling requirements that identify the type of bottled water), standards of quality, and good manufacturing practices specifically for bottled water.”

To ensure across-the-board bottled water safety, in 1995 the FDA established standard of identity regulations for bottled water, determining uniform definitions for the following bottled water classifications: bottled, drinking, artesian, groundwater, distilled, deionized, reverse osmosis, mineral, purified, sparkling, spring, sterile and well water.

IBWA’s testimony points out: “A bottled water product must meet the appropriate Standard of Identity and bear the required name on its label or it may be deemed misbranded under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.  If a bottled water product’s source is a municipal water system and it does not meet the FDA Standard of Identity for purified or sterile water, it must indicate the public water system source on the label.”

Consumers Right to Know

“IBWA supports a consumer’s right to clear, accurate and comprehensive information about the bottled water products they purchase, said Joe Doss. “All packaged foods and beverages, including bottled water, are subject to extensive FDA labeling requirements that provide consumers with a great deal of product quality information.  In addition, virtually all bottled water products include a phone number on the label that consumers can use to contact the company.  In fact, IBWA has petitioned FDA to require all bottled water labels to include a phone number. IBWA believes that the most feasible way for consumers to obtain information not already on the label is through a request to the bottler. In addition, consumers can go to the IBWA website to obtain contact information or water quality information for all IBWA member brands.”

To help ensure that consumers have access to useful and meaningful bottled water product information, the IBWA Code of Practice requires all members to comply with the following:

  • All proprietary brand products must include a telephone number on their labels so consumers can easily contact the company and request product information.
  • IBWA maintains an online member database, which also contains a specific link to a member company’s water quality information and/or contact information that may be used to secure a company’s water quality report.

A visit to IBWA’s website: www.bottledwater.org will provide consumers with Water Quality Information for every IBWA member, with a web link to the company or with posted data provided by the company.

Bottled Water’s Role in Disaster Response

Bottled water plays a vital role in disaster response. Clean, safe water is a critical need for citizens and first responders immediately following a natural disaster or other catastrophic event.  Unfortunately, the availability of water from public water systems is often compromised in the aftermath of such an event.  During these times, bottled water is the best option to deliver clean safe drinking water quickly into affected areas.

The bottled water industry has always been at the forefront of relief efforts during natural disasters and other catastrophic events.  Throughout the years, bottled water companies have immediately responded to the need for clean water after natural disasters, such as Hurricanes Andrew, Charlie, and Katrina, or the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.  More recently, our member companies provided bottled water to those in need in the aftermath of the spring flooding in the Midwest and to the victims of Hurricanes Gustav and Hanna. The bottled water industry looks to IBWA to help coordinate activities with state and federal government agencies and organizations, such as the American Red Cross and Salvation Army.  Working together, we determine the quickest and most effective way to deliver safe bottled water into affected areas to augment other relief efforts. Realistically, it takes vibrant, commercial bottled water industry to produce the much-needed bottled water that is made available for disaster assistance.

Overview of the Bottled Water Industry

According to the Beverage Marketing Corporation, in 2007, the total volume of bottled water consumed in the United States surpassed 8.8 billion gallons, a 6.9% advance over the 2006 volume level. That translates into an average of 29.3 gallons per person, which means U.S. residents now drink more bottled water annually than any other beverage except carbonated soft drinks. Sales revenues for the United States bottled water market in 2008 were approximately $11.2 billion (in wholesale dollars), a 3.2% decrease over the previous year.

“Yet, even at these levels, bottled water accounts for less than 0.02% percent of all groundwater withdrawals annually,” Mr. Doss stated. “

“The U.S. bottled water market is truly a consumer driven market, in which consumers are making healthier choices in the beverage category,” Mr. Doss said. “The strength of consumer self-generated demand is illustrated by the relatively modest amount spent on advertising. The 2006 bottled water advertising expenses totaled only $52 million. For comparison purposes, $637 million was spent on advertising for carbonated soft drinks (nearly 15 times that for bottled water) and advertising expenses for beer totaled $1 billion (approximately 20 times that for bottled water.)”

IBWA membership statistics indicate that bottled water companies in the United States are primarily family owned and operated small businesses. Over 60% of the IBWA membership has sales less than $1 million and 90% have sales less than $10 million.  Almost all bottled water brands are sold on a local or regional basis with the exception of imports and purified waters.

A copy of Mr. Doss’ written testimony is also available on the IBWA website https://www.bottledwater.org/public/2009 Releases/Testimony/IBWAwrittentestimonyJuly809hearing.doc


The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is the authoritative source of information about all types of bottled waters, including spring, mineral, purified, artesian, and sparkling. Founded in 1958, IBWA’s membership includes U.S. and international bottlers, distributors and suppliers. IBWA is committed to working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates bottled water as a packaged food product, to set comprehensive and stringent standards for safe, high-quality bottled water products.  

In addition to FDA regulations, IBWA member bottlers must adhere to the IBWA Bottled Water Code of Practice, which mandates additional standards and practices that in some cases are more stringent than federal and state regulations. A key feature of the IBWA Bottled Water Code of Practice is a mandatory annual plant inspection by an independent, third-party organization.  

IBWA is proud to be a partner with Keep America Beautiful and a supporter of Drink Up, an initiative of former First Lady Michelle Obama and the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), which encourages Americans to drink more water more often – whether from the tap, a filter, or in a bottle. Choosing water is always the healthy choice.