International Bottled Water Association
June 25, 2019
Alexandria, VA – There have been several recent news articles about arsenic levels found in two bottled water brands that were higher than permitted by law. Any bottled water product that exceeds state or federal regulations for any substance, including arsenic, should not be sold, the International Bottled Water Association said.
“The vast majority–many hundreds–of bottled water products sold in the United States are well below the levels established by state or federal regulations for arsenic,” said Jill Culora, IBWA’s vice president of communications. “Consumers can remain confident that bottled water products, like all food and beverages, are strictly and comprehensively regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and, thus, are safe for consumption,” said Culora. “News reports that mis-represent this issue as being widespread throughout the industry are unnecessarily scaring consumers about the safety of bottled water.”
As with other food products, bottled water that does not meet all applicable laws and regulations is subject to FDA enforcement actions, including recalls, warning letters, and product seizures. This helps ensure that adulterated or mislabeled products do not reach consumers. Any bottled water product that does not meet arsenic regulations (whether state or federal) should not be sold.
Members of IBWA are committed to providing consumers with the safest and highest quality products. Consumers many benefit from knowing the following:
- Arsenic is a naturally occurring substance that is widely found in soil, water, and almost all plant and animal life, including the human body. Arsenic can be present at varying levels in many foods and beverages, and these products, like bottled water, are safe to consume and enjoy if they meet all FDA regulations.
- By federal law, FDA regulations governing the safety and quality of bottled water must be as stringent as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) standards for tap water. The FDA standard of quality for arsenic in bottled water is 10 parts per billion (ppb), which means FDA concluded that—based on the best available science—the current limit protects the public health. And FDA sets limits that are lower than the level at which harm would likely occur, which the bottled water industry fully supports.
- EPA has also established a 10-ppb standard for arsenic in tap water. And both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Union (EU) have the same 10 ppb standard for arsenic in drinking water.
- Bottled water products that come from groundwater sources (e.g., spring water) may contain naturally occurring arsenic. Purified bottled waters often have lower arsenic levels due to the treatment processes used to make this type of product. However, regardless of the type, bottled water that meets the 10 ppb FDA arsenic standard is safe.
- A recent survey of 130 bottled water brands by Consumer Reports found that only two exceeded the FDA standard for arsenic. While even one bottled water product exceeding the FDA standard is too many, it is important to note that the vast majority of bottled water products sold in the U.S. are below the 10-ppb limit.
- IBWA supports a consumer’s right to clear, accurate, and comprehensive information about the bottled water products they purchase. Consumers who want to know more about what is in their bottled water product, such as arsenic, should contact the manufacturer and request a water quality report. Many bottlers publish their water quality reports on their websites and/or provide a contact number on their product labels. If a bottled water company does not satisfy a consumer’s request for more information, that consumer can and should choose another brand.
- In addition to complying with all 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 requirement that all IBWA bottlers must undergo a mandatory annual plant inspection conducted by an independent, third-party organization.
Bottled water is the No. 1 packaged drink in the U.S. (by volume) for many reasons, including its great taste, convenience, safety record, and recyclability. But the most prevalent reason why consumers are choosing bottled water is because they are seeking a more health-conscious lifestyle. Bottled water has no sugar, caffeine, or other additives that consumers may want to eliminate or reduce from their diets. Data from the Beverage Marketing Corporation shows that for the past two decades 85 percent of the sales growth for bottled water is the result of a “consumer shift,” mostly from sugar-sweetened beverages and juice to bottled water.
The bottled water industry is committed to providing consumers with the safest and highest quality products. Consumers can continue to be confident that there are no health risks associated with drinking bottled water that meets current FDA standards. Bottled water, like all food and beverages, is strictly regulated by FDA, and experts who work for FDA have concluded that—based on the best available science—the current 10 ppb standard for arsenic in bottled water protects the public health. In fact, FDA sets limits that are lower than the level at which harm would likely occur, which the bottled water industry fully supports. The EPA, which regulates tap water, has also established a 10-ppb standard for arsenic.
For more information about bottled water, visit IBWA’s website: www.bottledwater.org.