Archive for Wednesday, February 28, 2001

Bottled water labels can be confusing

February 28, 2001


How much water do I need to drink every day?

The recommended intake of total fluid a day is 2.5 liters, or about 10 1/2 cups. With that in mind, it is recommended that we, as adults, drink 6 to 8 cups of water each day.

Sports nutritionists recommend drinking 16 ounces of water an hour before exercise, from 12 to 16 ounces 15 minutes before exercise and from 2 to 8 ounces at 10-20 minute intervals during exercise.

I don't understand the differences between the various bottled waters out there today. Could you clarify, please?

On May 13, 1996, new bottled water regulations from FDA took effect. These regulations were aimed at alleviating consumer confusion about the many different types of bottled water on the market by providing standard definitions for the terms "artesian water," "ground water," "mineral water," "purified water," "sparkling bottled water," "spring water," "sterile water," "well water" and others.

The regulations also bring mineral water under existing quality standards for bottled water.

Bottled water, like all other foods regulated by FDA, must be processed, packaged, shipped and stored in a safe and sanitary manner and be truthfully and accurately labeled. Bottled water products must also meet specific FDA quality standards for contaminants.

Mineral water, for the first time, has to meet these bottled water standards. Mineral water had previously been exempt from standards that applied to other bottled water.

The following definitions have been established by FDA:

Bottled water: Water that is intended for human consumption and that is sealed in bottles or other containers with no added ingredients except that it may contain safe and suitable antimicrobial agents.

Artesian water or Artesian well water: Water from a well tapping a confined aquifer in which the water level stands at some height above the top of the aquifer.

Ground water: Water from a subsurface saturated zone that is under a pressure equal to or greater than atmospheric pressure.

Mineral water: Water containing not less than 250 parts per million total dissolved solids, originating from an underground water source. No minerals may be added to this water.

Purified water: Water that has been produced by distillation, deionization, reverse osmosis or other processes and that meets the definition in the U.S. Pharmacopeia, 23d Revision, Jan. 1, 1995.

Sparkling bottled water: Water that, after treatment and possible replacement of carbon dioxide, contains the same amount of carbon dioxide that it had at emergence from the source.

Spring water: Water derived from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the surface of the earth.

Sterile water or sterilized water: Water that meets the requirements under "Sterility Tests" in the U.S. Pharmacopeia, 23d Revision, Jan. 1, 1995.

Well water: Water from a hole bored, drilled or otherwise constructed in the ground that taps the water of an aquifer.

Besides defining these terms, the regulation addresses various other labeling concerns. For example, water bottled from municipal water supplies must be clearly labeled as "from a community water system" or, alternatively, "from a municipal source," unless it is processed sufficiently to be labeled as distilled or purified water.

The regulation also requires accurate labeling of bottled water marketed for infants. If a product is labeled sterile, it must be processed to meet FDA's requirements for commercial sterility (see definition above).

Otherwise, the labeling must indicate that it is not sterile and should be used in preparation of infant formula only as directed by a physician or according to infant formula preparation instructions.

Why choose bottled water?

Bottled water is one option for families who have a water problem, whether their water is unsafe or has an unacceptable taste or odor. It is best used as a temporary source for drinking water.

Long-term solutions to water problems, however, should be solved by using other water sources. (Note: People often get water from friends or relatives when they have a problem with their own water supply. Users should be aware of the quality of that water, especially from nonpublic sources.)

Does bottled water need to be refrigerated?

Products labeled drinking water, natural water, distilled water or reverse osmosis (RO) water usually have a tamper-proof cap that is not airtight. This cap prevents tampering but is not adequate for long-term storage. The product often is not sterile and may deteriorate in quality. Therefore, purchase bottled water where the stock is rotated frequently.

For best quality, it is recommended to refrigerate bottled water once it is brought home and to use it within a few days.

Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.

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