Tell Congress You Want to Know What's in Your Bottled Water
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Today, the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations is holding a hearing to evaluate gaps in government oversight and regulation of the bottled water industry. This is a critical step forward in regulating a product that has historically been one of the least regulated products in commerce.
A key focus will be the findings of a report requested by members of Congress and produced by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that finds FDA safety and consumer protections are often less stringent than comparable EPA protections for tap water. The report looks at the quality measures, labeling requirements, marketing practices, regulatory oversight and the social and environmental impacts of the bottled water industry.
Corporate Accountability International commends Representative Stupak, Chair of the Subcommittee, for calling this hearing, and Representatives Waxman and Markey for signing on as requestors for the GAO study. It is time for Congress to take action to address the concerns raised during this hearing as part of a national commitment to protect and maintain public water resources. And starting today, Congress can work to guarantee the consumer's right to know what exactly they are getting in the billions of disposable plastic water bottles sold each year.
Through our Think Outside the Bottle campaign, Corporate Accountability International has worked with thousands of our members to educate millions of people about the environmental and social impacts of bottled water, the importance of strong public water systems, and the need to protect access to water and water resources for the common good.
Improving access to information for consumers about how the bottled water industry uses water and produces its products has been a key part of this effort. People need more comprehensive and accessible information about what sources of water bottlers are using and the relative quality and safety of the water inside the bottles they sell.
Throughout our campaign, ten of thousands of people, including students, members of faith communities, city officials and others have directly called on the largest bottled water corporations - Coke, Pepsi and Nestlé - to fully reveal the sources and sites of the water used by these companies for bottling, and to publicly report breaches in bottled water quality, comparable to reports by public water systems.
As a result of this public pressure, there has been progress, as some bottlers have been forced to take action. For example, both Pepsi and Nestlé responded to public concerns by changing the labels of their Aquafina and Pure Life brands to indicate that both brands use public water systems as the water source for these brands.
However, these are first steps, and members of Congress need to understand that it has taken major public outcry, followed by proactive legislation at the state and local level, to provoke even these changes. Moving forward, the GAO is recommending that the, "FDA's lack of authority and resources to effectively regulate bottled water" be included in a larger reexamination of the federal food safety system. This is essential, but should not preclude immediate action by the FDA such as, "at a minimum, requiring that companies provide on the label contact information directing customers on how to obtain comprehensive information (GAO)." Congress can also show leadership at this time by enacting legislation that brings water quality and reporting standards for bottled water up the same bar as we set of public tap water.
You can read the full government report here.
Kristin Urquiza is the Think Outside the Bottle Campaign Director.