Since bottled water and other packaged beverages easily accommodate the active lifestyle of today's families, these products are an obvious choice when heading out to after-school or weekend activities. But what do you really know about these products? How are they regulated? Are there really any differences between the various brands and types of packaged water products?
While many consumers think of it as drinking water, bottled water products that are sold or imported into the U.S. are actually regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as packaged foods. While the FDA has established regulations governing the quality, labeling, and production processes, they do not actually test and certify all the different brands sold in the U.S. each year.
FDA regulations require that packaged water products to be tested regularly for the same contaminants for which public tap water supplies are monitored. In addition to monitoring for microbiological contamination, packaged water products must also undergo testing for:
Similar to the EPA's safe drinking water regulations, the FDA has established maximum permissible levels for many of these contaminants.
Presently, there is only one nationally accredited certifying organization for packaged beverages — NSF International. Their beverage certification program was launched more than 25 years ago.
The NSF certification program provides annual unannounced plant inspections of a bottler's operation, from the source of the water through disinfection and treatment, as well as the container closure process. Extensive product testing is performed for over 160 chemicals, inorganic, radiological, and microbiological contaminants.
Because NSF is not a regulatory agency, NSF certification is strictly voluntary. Participation in the NSF certification program by packaged beverage companies demonstrates their commitment to producing quality products for their customers.
To find NSF certified bottled waters, visit the online product database.