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Putting the Myth concerning un-regulated Bottled Water to rest

OK, once again I was having a conversation about bottled water with someone who said it isn’t regulated. That he could sell tap water and label it natural spring water because it’s not regulated.

Every so often I hear someone say this, and every time I shake my head at the ignorance of believing everything you read or hear.

But OK, maybe I’m wrong, maybe it isn’t regulated…so off I went to find out…from the Health Canada government website:

In Canada, bottled water is regulated as a food and therefore it must comply with the Food and Drugs Act. Section 4 of the Act prohibits the sale of foods which contain poisonous or harmful substances and section 5(1) of the Act prohibits the labelling, packaging, treating, processing, selling or advertising of any food in a manner that misleads or deceives consumers as to the character, value, quantity, composition, merit or safety of the product.

There are specific regulations for bottled water set out in Division 12 of Part B of the Food and Drug Regulations. The regulations provide definitions for different types of bottled water and specify microbiological standards, acceptable treatments and labelling requirements for these products.

Federal laws set stringent national standards for bottled water. In addition to these laws, provinces and territories are free to establish additional requirements for their own jurisdictions.

Frequently Asked Questions about Bottled Water – Health Canada

well…that should end the debate once and for all about whether or not bottled water is regulated.

Seems I was right all along to shake my head in disbelief at these ridiculous assumptions or rumors being spread…but, I never put much stock in the rumor-mill anyways.

Granted, I can’t say about the UK or the USA but I suspect their’s is regulated too…I could be wrong, but I doubt it.

8 Responses to Putting the Myth concerning un-regulated Bottled Water to rest

  1. Butterose May 20, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    Hi mathio,

    I am in agreement about paying for bottled water. It really is nothing more than your own tap water. For one local bottler here, it comes from the same reservoir my tap water does.

  2. mathio May 19, 2010 at 4:26 am

    hi admin and butterose!

    this seems like a classic debated that i’ve had with many a friend over the past year, it is highlighted now by the fact that I have to write an environmental impact assessment essay on bottled water and has prompted further research. 

    As I have read there are three types of water, the first is mineral water, then spring water and thridly purified water.

    mineral water needs to be bottled at the source, it is subject to less regulatory tests than municipal water. Companies are not required to present to the public the results of their tests nor are they obliged to actually perform tests (with the exception of some forward thinking countries), the standards mineral water has to reach are relatively lower than municipal water. i dont remember the exact figures but i think there are only about 16 banned substances from mineral water whilst municipal has a much larger list. mineral water can not be tampered with, no addatives or any of that kinda stuff is allowed, i believe filtration and ozonation are the only two processes allowed.

     i.e. mineral water does not need to reach the same standards as municipal tap water.

    spring water locations are protected similarly to mineral water locations, but the water does not need to be bottled at the spring. i believe this is the regulatory loophole butterose is referring to. at the same time you can do whatever u want to the water and make it ‘purified water’. this purified water is essentially the same as tap water (same source) and constitutes the majority of bottled water. the argument here is thus.

    why pay 250 times more (UK prices) for a bottle of water when the same standard of water comes out of the tap?

    municipal water is tested on a daily basis at almost every stage of its filtration and purification, some municipalities are said to test water three times a day! as a result when something is found wrong it is immediately reported and receives public attention. bottled water on the other hand does not. tests are not published and the truth of the matter is that drinking water from a bottle is riskier than drinking tap water.

    In 1990 Perrier had to withdraw 280 million bottles from 750000 sale points around the world because of high benzene concentrations which cost them 133 million dollars.

    my question is this… how many times do you think water bottling companies have found something wrong with their water and opted not to do anything about it because of its high cost. Ford did this with the case of the Pinto in the past, and I am sure you can think of other companies which have opted for these types of options as opposed to paying compensation or recalling products. Having said this not all companies are evil, from personal research, and my personal opinion is that companies like coca cola danone and nestle are evil, whilst companies like evian are not. in the city of evian in switzerland – the location of the mineral water, agriculture and a variety of possible pollutant applications are not allowed. evian do things like cover the additional cost to farmers of buying greener products which would not contaminate the water supply. given the attrocities coca cola performs in other countries around the world with their coke bottling plants do you think they care about keeping people healthy or the ridiculous profit margins they make from selling you your own water?

  3. Butterose April 25, 2010 at 5:59 am

    Most municipal water systems have reservoirs. Those reservoirs are fed from streams and rivers which are spring fed. Spring fed means spring water. Filtered, purified and available from my tap since I’m on a municipal system. There used to be a spring fed well here. The US government contaminated all the wells in this area with polypropelene glycol, a component used in the wing deicers the AF base sprayed on it’s planes. Seeped into the ground and into the springs which fed wells in a 6 mile radius from the base. The US paid for an extension of the water system from the nearest city and we all had to pay to connect to it since our spring fed wells contain water that isn’t fit to drink.

    I get my water from the same reservoir that the bottling company I worked for gets theirs. Since the reservoir is spring fed, but the water is purified, they can sell it as spring water, since it meets water quality standards. However, the actual unpurified spring water is not fit to drink. In Maine, Poland Springs bottles state that “their water comes from deep in the Maine woods.” This is very true, however, it is purified and sent onto the bottling plant from various municipal systems throughout the state of Maine. Deceiving? You betcha! Illegal? Nope! It is, in the beginning of it’s life, water from a spring, and it does meet water quality standards.

    When regulations determine clearly what is and isn’t “spring” water then it will become false advertising. There are no clear guidelines for the determination of spring water. It’s called a regulatory loophole.

  4. admin April 24, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Now I could be wrong but you can’t legally sell tap water as spring water if it doesn’t come from a spring…as it would be in violation of this:

    “and section 5(1) of the Act prohibits the labelling, packaging, treating, processing, selling or advertising of any food in a manner that misleads or deceives consumers”

    as for ‘ spitting ‘ 😀 you take that chance every time you buy a pop or a pizza, or any other drink or food 😀

    I knew a guy who used to put dead flies on the pizzas of people he didn’t like or complained about the service. When I delivered food there was one Chinese restaurant whose kitchen was swarming with roaches, and they used to bang the extra flour off the chicken in the garbage can. You never know. 😀

  5. Butterose April 24, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Yes. While bottled water is regulated federally as a food (see Question 2), the tap water distributed by municipalities is regulated by the appropriate province or territory. However, Health Canada is involved in the development of the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality. These Guidelines are developed through the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Committee on Drinking Water which includes members from the provinces, territories and Health Canada’s Healthy Environment and Consumer Safety Branch. They contain guidelines for microbiological, chemical, physical and radiological contaminants. For each contaminant, the Guidelines establish the maximum acceptable concentration of the substance that can be permitted in water used for drinking. They are used by the provinces and territories as the basis for their own drinking water standards.

    All this means is that if tap water meets the safety standards for the Canadian Food and Drug administration it can be put in a bottle and sold as bottled water. And it can be called Spring water. In my area the only time there are boil water alerts is if the municipal water system gets a break in the pipeline. Then water must be boiled for 24 to 48 hours afterwards. In the US, tap water has to meet the same safety standard as bottled water as to chemicals, microbes etc. and there is no test to determine the difference between tap and spring water.

    Here in some areas around me they have sulphur water which stinks. The springs in those areas smell just as bad and most of them don’t have municipal water systems. That would be actual spring water that doesn’t meet safety standards. LOL

    All bottling companies buy their water from somewhere and it usually is from the cleanest municipal system. It doesn’t matter what country, they bottle whatever meets the clean water guidelines. I worked at a bottling plant for 2 weeks. Trust me, you don’t want to drink bottled water. You never know who spit in one of the bottles they put up for filling. And I’m not kidding about that.

  6. admin April 24, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    I think the necessity of bottled water also depends upon where you live and where the water comes from…some of the water in Canada and the US comes from standing water which is the worst, it’s also where mosquitoes, and other bugs, lay their eggs, and most of these places have regular ‘ boil your water ‘ alerts.

  7. admin April 24, 2010 at 11:57 am

    ” All he would have to do is, insure through testing that his tap water meets the standard for clean water and then label his bottles “filtered spring water”. Better yet he could call himself Canada Springs and sell “bottled” water.”

    That might be true in the US but not in Canada…according to the Health Canada site tap water falls under different legislation. So, no he actually couldn’t do what you propose….unless you’re talking about an American calling bottled tap water ‘ Canada Springs ‘…then, at this point I wouldn’t know. 😀

  8. Butterose April 24, 2010 at 9:50 am

    The town of Fryeburg, Maine sells it’s water to Poland Spring Bottling Co. which gets shipped to it’s main plant in Poland Spring and gets sold as “spring” water. It meets regulations simply because “spring” water is ground water, which is the source for all the water we drink. Regulations apply to water standards and labeling. The standard for spring water is exactly the same as that for tap water. In fact, the water we all get from our municipal water sources is filtered ground water. All he would have to do is, insure through testing that his tap water meets the standard for clean water and then label his bottles “filtered spring water”. Better yet he could call himself Canada Springs and sell “bottled” water.
    Poland Springs is owned by Nestle Corporation and their water isn’t quite as pure as they claim.

    “In June 2003, Poland Spring was sued for false advertising in a class action lawsuit charging that their water that supposedly comes from springs, is in fact heavily treated common ground water.[8] The suit also states, hydro-geologists hired by Nestlé found that another current source for Poland Spring water near the original site stands over a former trash and refuse dump, and below an illegal disposal site where human sewage was sprayed as fertilizer for many years.[8] The suit was settled in September 2003, with the company not admitting to the allegations, but agreeing to pay $10 million in charity donations and discounts over the next 5 years.[9] Nestlé continues to sell the same Maine water under the Poland Springs name.”

    I have a Britta filter and reuseable water bottles. I stopped buying bottled water because it is a rip off and not much better than what comes from ones own tap.

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