ALEXANDRIA, VA — The International Bottled Water Association has applauded proposed federal legislation intended to provide uniform information to bottled-water consumers. Introduced by Reps. Renee Elmers (R-NC), Jim Matheson (D-UT) and Richard Nugent (R-FL), the Bottled Water Quality Information Act (HR 4978) would make bottled-water labels uniform nationwide.
The measure would require bottled-water producers to prepare an annual quality report and make it available upon request. That report would provide information on the type of water source (e.g., spring, artesian, well, public water system) and the treatment methods used by the bottler, as well as the test results for the microbiological, physical, chemical and radiological quality of the water, as prescribed by federal regulations.
Bottled-water labels would continue to include the name and contact information of the manufacturer or distributor and the type of water source, and would add instructions for obtaining the current bottled-water quality report.
IBWA pointed out that bottled water is comprehensively regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a packaged food product. By federal law, the FDA regulations governing the safety and quality of bottled water must be at least as stringent as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards for public water systems. With regard to contaminants that have serious public-health implications -- lead as well as coliform and E. coli bacteria -- bottled-water regulations are stricter.
Bottled water, like all other packaged beverages and foods, is subject to detailed FDA labeling requirements. However, there is limited space available on bottled-water labels because of those federal requirements. The association noted that this constraint, along with ongoing interest in smaller, more environmentally friendly labels and packaging, makes a new uniform federal labeling standard very desirable, in order to ensure that the most efficient possible use is made of label space and that the information provided to consumers is consistent across all markets.
"Uniform standards will provide bottled water producers and distributors with a more reliable environment in which to grow their businesses and give consumers consistent product information," said IBWA president and chief executive Joe Doss. "They will also ensure that the bottled water industry will continue our tradition of quickly responding during times of emergency, without the risk of being slowed by contradictory state labeling requirements."
The proposed law would further establish the bottled-water industry as sharply focused on its customers, Doss added; and it will avoid a "patchwork quilt" of confusing state and local labeling requirements. "The bill is a win-win for consumers and the industry," the IBWA president emphasized, "and we call on the House of Representatives to quickly pass this important legislation."
Founded in 1958, IBWA's membership includes U.S. and international bottlers, distributors and suppliers. In addition to complying with 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.