The bottled water recall has prompted some to declare a need for warning labels. Fourteen different bands of bottled water, mostly store brands, were recalled by Niagra Bottling over possible e. coli contamination. Two of their plants did not follow safety regulations and while there is no evidence that anyone has been made sick by it, a voluntary bottled water recall was issued as a precaution.
Bottled water is already regulated by the FDA. The need for warning labels has been suggested before, although the motivations have varied. The drought in California has called attention to the fact many water bottling companies are using the already limited water sources there. Last week, a Change.org petition was posted calling for warning labels on bottled water. Although posted shortly before the e.coli bottled water recall, it is not concerned with possible contamination. Instead, the petition notes the large amount of plastic waste produced by bottled water and the possible contribution of bottled water to the drought.
There have been calls for warning labels even older than that. Concerns about possible cancer-causing chemicals in the packaging of bottled water led to calls for warning labels over that issue. In California, such labels have been in use since 2012, long before the bottled water recall.
Despite its presence, most people don’t spend too much time thinking about the safety of bottled water. In fact, bottled water is usually thought of as being better and safer than tap water. Tap water, unlike the water in the bottled water recall, is regulated by the EPA instead of the FDA. Bottled water goes through a more elaborate filtration process. However, the safety regulations on both types of water are very similar.
Many brands of bottled water, not just those in the recall, use pictures of wild streams and rivers to give an image of purity. Even those brands are still more likely to come from a tap water source. The limits for e. coli and other substances in bottled water vary by state, and many brands that are tested are found to be lacking those standards. These might not be enough to cause illness, but it’s sure to cause consumers to pause.
Does bottled water need warnings attached, whether about potential physical or enviormental harms? Maybe. Critics say that those concerns are exaggerated or outright false. But there’s no denying that almost all Americans have a source of water in their own home: straight from the tap. And in the light of the bottled water recall, perhaps more people should rely on that one.