Under Water? Navigating the Water Aisle
By Tonya Peele, MS CWC
Buying bottled water is not as simple as you may think. On a good day, your favorite grocer can carry many different types of bottled water. But they are not all created equal. So aside from taste, how much do you know about the bottles of water you toss into your shopping cart?
Bottled waters differ from one another based on the source and method of processing. Each of these factors impacts both the taste and content of the water. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the agency responsible for creating the standards that govern the bottled water industry. The FDA works to protect consumer safety under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), which requires manufacturers to produce safe and truthfully labeled products.
Water from wells and municipal supplies do not fall under the FDA’s oversight; however, water from these sources are closely monitored and regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The FDA standards, which are based on the EPA standards for tap water, are used to categorize bottled water into 4 different types. Here’s what you need to know:
This type of drinking water has been treated by distillation or reverse osmosis. These processes remove bacteria and solid particles from the water, thus “purifying” the water. Distilling water also removes minerals, including salt, and often imparts a “flat” taste. This type of drinking water can be labeled purified drinking water or distilled drinking water. A lot of the bottled water that we drink in the US is purified drinking water.
Spring water is derived from an underground source that flows naturally to the surface of the earth. To bear the label of spring water, the water must be tapped directly from the spring or an underground formation feeding the spring.
Mineral water contains natural proportions of minerals and trace elements as emerged from the source. According to the FDA.gov, mineral water contains at least 250 parts per million total dissolved solids. No additional minerals are added.
What makes sparkling water fizz? Carbon dioxide. Sparkling water can be labeled sparking purified water, sparkling spring water, sparkling mineral water, soda water, or seltzer water. Interestingly, these waters are not considered water at all but are classified as soft drinks.
In addition to considering what makes one type of bottled water stand out from another, think about the impact bottled water makes on the environment. Americans spend billions of dollars every year on bottled water. Although plastic water bottles are recyclable, many of these empty bottles end up in landfills. So perhaps at the end of the day, you choose not to go down the water aisle at all. You choose.
Tonya Peele is the author of Quick Wins for Healthy Eating. By turning real food into quick meals, she has lost 30 pounds, reclaimed her health and gained a new way to connect with food and the world. For quick recipes with real food, visit her blog, The Quick Dish, at www.tonyapeele.com.