Bottled Water Industry Opposes Calif. Bill Reducing Consumer Protection

June 6, 2003

If Assemblywoman Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro) has her way, Californians will lose the strong protection of stringent state laws, which regulate bottled water as a packaged food product. Among the many notions of AB 83, Assemblywoman Corbett's bill would remove bottled water from the regulatory authority of the California Food and Drug Branch and have it become regulated — at the state level — as a public water utility.

Currently, the State of California, through the Department of Health Services' Food and Drug Branch, regulates bottled water as a food product under the Sherman Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

On the national level, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates bottled water as a packaged food product with stringent standards for safety, quality, production, labeling, and identity.

And, for members of the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), the industry upholds additional standards through the IBWA Model Code, which are verified through annual, unannounced plant inspections by an independent, third-party organization.

"Today, State law requires the Food and Drug Branch to review each public drinking water standard and each bottled water standard to ensure that they are at least as stringent and protective of public health. The same holds true for FDA, which must undertake the same measures with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at the national level," said Stephen R. Kay, vice president of communications for the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA). "There is no logical public health or public policy basis that would require such a drastic and expensive change in bottled water regulation."

IBWA believes that municipal-style consumer confidence reports are not relevant to bottled water due to the numerous differences in delivery and regulation between bottled water and public water systems. As a result of thorough consideration, FDA determined a few short years ago that bottled water labels are not a proper or feasible forum for public-water style reporting.

"Consumers who want to know more about their bottled water brand-of-choice have available the same channels as consumers of all other foods and beverages," Kay added. "And, because bottled water is a packaged food product, the public is protected from substandard or mislabeled products through a broad range of California Department of Health Services and FDA enforcement actions, which include warning letters, recalls, civil (seizure and/or injunction) and criminal penalties."

Along with FDA's Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) required of all foods, bottled water has several other applicable regulations including Standards of Identity, Standards of Quality and additional, specific bottled water GMPs. Being a packaged food product, bottled water is also bound by the Nutrition Labeling Education Act (NLEA) and the full range of FDA protective measures designed to help ensure product safety and protect consumers.

California also mandates bottled water standards and inspects, samples, analyzes and approves bottled water sources and processing plants and requires that bottled water quality testing be performed and submitted by a certified, independent laboratory.

For an overview of bottled water regulations and standards and other bottled water information, visit the IBWA web site at

The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is the authoritative source of information about all types of bottled waters. Founded in 1958, IBWA's membership includes U.S. and international bottlers, distributors and suppliers. IBWA is committed to working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates bottled water as a packaged food product, and state governments — strengthened by the IBWA Model Code — to set stringent standards for safe, high quality bottled water products.

Source: IBWA