What's in that bottle? Congress says water unclear

Thu Jul 9, 2009 8:29am EDT
 
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By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Bottled water makers make millions off people who believe their products are purer than tap water, but consumers do not realize that they are less regulated than plain old tap water, according to a U.S. Congressional report released on Wednesday.

The report from the General Accountability Office also found that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has little power to regulate the safety of bottled water, and even states with the power to regulate it concentrate more on tap water.

The report was just one piece of ammunition unleashed at the bottled water industry at a hearing of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

"Of particular note, FDA does not have the specific statutory authority to require bottlers to use certified laboratories for water quality tests or to report test results, even if violations of the standards are found," the GAO report reads.

Jane Houlihan of the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization that submitted a second report to the committee, said in a statement: "Many people assume bottled water is healthier and safer to drink than ordinary tap water.

"But some companies have lured consumers away from the tap with claims of health and purity that aren't backed by public data."

Sponsors of the hearing agreed.

"Americans are willing to pay top dollar for bottled water, which costs up to 1,900 times more than tap water and uses up to 2,000 times more energy to produce and deliver," Michigan Representative Bart Stupak told the hearing.   Continued...

 
<p>A man hands a bottle of water to another man in Sydney, February 6, 2009. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne</p>