BOSTON - August 28 - The unfolding case of bromate contamination of bottled water produced by Mayer Bros. Co. and marketed under private labels of major supermarkets such as Wegmans and Food Club provides a startling look at the lapses in the bottled water regulatory system. The failure of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to adequately regulate bottled water corporations puts the health of bottled water consumers in jeopardy, according to corporate accountability advocates.
"The bottled water industry promotes bottled water as pure, safe, healthy and superior to tap water, but bottled water is actually less regulated than tap water," says Corporate Accountability International Associate Campaigns Director Gigi Kellett. "This is one more piece of evidence that challenges the misleading marketing of the bottled water industry."
In early August, Wegmans was notified that tests of its "Food You Feel Good About" spring water brand contained elevated levels of cancer-causing bromate. Wegmans' supplier, Mayer Bros. Co. of West Seneca, New York, tests samples of its water products monthly, according to the Rochester, New York, Democrat and Chronicle. Wegman's independent laboratory conducted additional tests and confirmed levels of bromate as high as 25 parts per billion, nearly two and half times the 10 parts per billion allowed under FDA regulations. Wegmans immediately recalled its own products, and notified the FDA and its competitors. Subsequent tests have revealed the problem stems from water bottled as far back as June 27th, much of which has already likely been purchased and consumed by unsuspecting customers. Weeks after learning of the problem, the FDA has still not issued a formal recall, though an announcement is expected within days.
Major bottled water brands have had similar problems. In 2004, half a million bottles of Coke's Dasani were recalled in the United Kingdom after they were also found to contain elevated levels of bromate. And a Natural Resources Defense Council study in 1999 found that bottled water was no safer--and sometimes less safe--than tap water, with harmful contaminants like arsenic detected in some brands.
"FDA regulations of bottled water just aren't as strict as the EPA's standards for tap water. The water in most municipal systems is tested many times a day, not once a month as Wegmans' recalled products were," says Kellett. "Why did it take five weeks to identify this problem? And why hasn't the FDA acted sooner?"
Thousands of Corporate Accountability International members and activists involved in the group's Think Outside the Bottle Campaign are concerned that corporations like Coke, Nestlé and Pepsi are spending tens of millions of dollars every year to undermine people's confidence in tap water, even though the United States' water systems are better regulated than bottled water. Three out of four Americans drink bottled water, and one of five drink only bottled water. Think Outside the Bottle challenges the marketing muscle and political power of bottled water corporations like Coke, Pepsi and Nestlé. Corporate Accountability International members and activists believe water is a precious resource that should not be bought or sold.