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Jewish Recipes --> Food and Health --> H2O - Tap Water or Bottle Water -- L'chaim

Consult your Doctor, FDA and your local Water Company.

High Standards

Is the extra expense of bottled water worth it? One thing consumers can depend on is that the FDA sets regulations specifically for bottled water to ensure that the bottled water they buy is safe, according to Henry Kim, Ph.D., a supervisory chemist at the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Office of Plant and Dairy Foods and Beverages. Kim, whose office oversees the agency's regulatory program for bottled water, says that major changes have been made since 1974, when the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) first gave regulatory oversight of public drinking water (tap water) to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Each time the EPA establishes a standard for a chemical or microbial contaminant, the FDA either adopts it for bottled water or makes a finding that the standard is not necessary for bottled water in order to protect the public health.

"Generally, over the years, the FDA has adopted EPA standards for tap water as standards for bottled water," Kim says. As a result, standards for contaminants in tap water and bottled water are very similar.

However, in some instances, standards for bottled water are different than for tap water. Kim cites lead as an example. Because lead can leach from pipes as water travels from water utilities to home faucets, the EPA set an action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb) in tap water. This means that when lead levels are above 15 ppb in tap water that reaches home faucets, water utilities must treat the water to reduce the lead levels to below 15 ppb. In bottled water, where lead pipes are not used, the lead limit is set at 5 ppb. Based on FDA survey information, bottlers can readily produce bottled water products with lead levels below 5 ppb. This action was consistent with the FDA's goal of reducing consumers' exposure to lead in drinking water to the extent practicable.

Production of bottled water also must follow the current good manufacturing practices (CGMP) regulations set up and enforced by the FDA. Water must be sampled, analyzed and found to be safe and sanitary. These regulations also require proper plant and equipment design, bottling procedures and recordkeeping.

The FDA also oversees inspections of the bottling plants. Kim says, "Because the FDA's experience over the years has shown that bottled water poses no significant public health risk, we consider bottled water not to be a high risk food." Nevertheless, the FDA inspects bottled water plants under its general food safety program and also contracts with the states to perform some bottled water plant inspections. In addition, some states require bottled water firms to be licensed annually.

Members of the IBWA also agree to adhere to the association's Model Code, a set of standards that is more stringent than federal regulations in some areas. Bottling plants that adopt the IBWA Model Code agree to one unannounced annual inspection by an independent firm.

 
 
 
 

 

diagram showing the different levels in the earth from which water is obtained.The FDA also classifies some bottled water according to its origin.

  • Artesian well water. Water from a well that taps an aquifer--layers of porous rock, sand and earth that contain water--which is under pressure from surrounding upper layers of rock or clay. When tapped, the pressure in the aquifer, commonly called artesian pressure, pushes the water above the level of the aquifer, sometimes to the surface. Other means may be used to help bring the water to the surface.
    According to the EPA, water from artesian aquifers often is more pure because the confining layers of rock and clay impede the movement of contamination. However, despite the claims of some bottlers, there is no guarantee that artesian waters are any cleaner than ground water from an unconfined aquifer, the EPA says.
  • Mineral water. Water from an underground source that contains at least 250 parts per million total dissolved solids. Minerals and trace elements must come from the source of the underground water. They cannot be added later.
  • Spring water. Derived from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the earth's surface. Spring water must be collected only at the spring or through a borehole tapping the underground formation feeding the spring. If some external force is used to collect the water through a borehole, the water must have the same composition and quality as the water that naturally flows to the surface.
  • Well water. Water from a hole bored or drilled into the ground, which taps into an aquifer.

Bottled water may be used as an ingredient in beverages, such as diluted juices or flavored bottled waters. However, beverages labeled as containing "sparkling water," "seltzer water," "soda water," "tonic water," or "club soda" are not included as bottled water under the FDA's regulations, because these beverages have historically been considered soft drinks.

Some bottled water also comes from municipal sources--in other words--the tap. Municipal water is usually treated before it is bottled.

Examples of water treatments include:

  • Distillation. In this process, water is turned into a vapor. Since minerals are too heavy to vaporize, they are left behind, and the vapors are condensed into water again.
  • Reverse osmosis. Water is forced through membranes to remove minerals in the water.
  • Absolute 1 micron filtration. Water flows through filters that remove particles larger than one micron in size, such as Cryptosporidium, a parasitic protozoan.
  • Ozonation. Bottlers of all types of waters typically use ozone gas, an antimicrobial agent, to disinfect the water instead of chlorine, since chlorine can leave residual taste and odor to the water.

Bottled water that has been treated by distillation, reverse osmosis, or other suitable process and that meets the definition of "purified water" in the U.S. Pharmacopeia can be labeled as "purified water."

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Sept 2005 - 2014 - Kosher Recipes - Kosher Cooking - Jewish Cooking - Jewish Recipes - Jewish Foods