While bottled water and other packaged beverages easily accommodate today’s active lifestyle, what do you really know about these products and how they are regulated? Below are five facts every consumer should know about bottled water products.

Is bottled water regulated?

Yes, in many countries around the world. In the U.S., while tap water is regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), bottled water is considered a food product and thus falls under the scope of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA sets current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs) that include product labeling requirements and establish maximum contaminant levels for various impurities. Many U.S. states also have additional monitoring and licensing requirements for bottled water sold within their borders. Water intended for non-U.S. markets may be required to comply with either U.S. or local requirements, such as European Union Directives, Division 12 of Canada Food and Drug Regulations, Codex Alimentarious guidelines, etc.

Is bottled water free of lead and other contaminants?

Not necessarily. Bottled water generally doesn’t have to be contaminant free, but it cannot contain any contaminant at a level that exceeds federal or local maximum allowable concentrations.

To learn more about the quality of a particular brand, contact the bottler and request a copy of its most recent water quality analysis.

Why should I care if my bottled water is certified?

Bottled water quality is not regulated in many countries. While some countries do require bottled water companies to monitor and conduct regular product testing, they may not require independent audits or product quality testing by a third party.

Companies that certify their bottled water are taking an extra step to provide their customers with added assurance that their products comply with all applicable federal and/or local regulations.

Which is better, bottled or tap?

Just as tap water quality varies from city to city, bottled water quality varies from one product to the next, depending on the type and quality of the source water and the treatment it undergoes at the bottling facility.

You can request a copy of your city's annual water quality report as well as a detailed independent analysis from your favorite bottled water company. The two reports can then be compared to determine which product best meets your personal needs.

How long can I store bottled water?

Unopened bottled water products can usually be stored indefinitely, provided the bottles are kept in the proper environment. Typically, bottled water manufacturers indicated a shelf life of 1-2 years. Bottled water is a food product and should be stored in a pantry or other similar environment just as you would other food items. Keep bottled water away from chemicals, such as cleaning compounds, paints or gasoline. In addition, don't store bottled water in a garage or storage shed where it could be exposed to chemical fumes, excessive heat or sunlight.  If you suspect any of your stored bottled water has become contaminated (smells funny, has algae growth, etc.), discard or boil it before using it in an emergency.