Congress Looks at Bottled Water Industry

PepsiCo and Coca Cola Company were among the <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/product_liability">bottled water sellers asked to provide information about how the companies test and source water. U.S. lawmakers requested the information yesterday from 13 bottled water sellers which also include Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc. and Nestlé, reported Reuters.

The request followed a congressional hearing earlier yesterday that “found that neither the public nor federal regulators know nearly enough about” where bottled water originates and what steps ensure such water’s safety, said Democratic Representative Bart Stupak, reported Reuters. “The majority of consumers purchase bottled water because of perceived health and safety benefits, but they actually know very little about the quality of the water they are buying,” Stupak added, quoted Reuters. The companies were also asked to provide the names and locations of water sources.

“We do put the source of our water on all of our retail product labels,” said Jane Lazgin, spokeswoman for Nestlé’s water unit, who also said that Nestlé’s also maintains the information online, reported Reuters, which added that other companies’ representatives could not be immediately reached yesterday.

The letters were sent by Stupak and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (Democrat), said Reuters, pointing out that Waxman is known for his work on consumer issues; Stupak is chair of the committee’s investigations panel.

The Congressional report released yesterday explained that bottled water is less regulated that basic tap water, yet most consumers are unaware of the lack of regulations and believe that bottled water is “purer,” according to Reuters. As a matter-of-fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have much power in bottled water regulation, a fact that came out when the General Accountability Office (GAO) spoke at the hearing, said Reuters. “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,” a new GAO report said, quoted Reuters.

Stupak pointed out that that bottled water has been recalled in recent years over issues regarding an array of contaminations including arsenic, bromate, cleaning compounds, mold, and bacteria, said Reuters. For instance, in May, we wrote that effective December 2, 2009, bottled water makers would have to operate under stricter standards to prevent contamination by the dangerous, sometimes deadly, E. coli bacteria, according to Bloomberg.com. The new “bottled water policies,” were first suggested this past September and were developed to meet 2006 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards for public drinking water said Bloomberg, citing the FDA.

E. coli, a fecal contamination indicator, may cause fatal blood poisoning, cystitis, deadly septicemia, and death. Symptoms of infection include stomach cramps and watery diarrhea that may turn bloody within one to three days. E. coli generally taints meat through improper butchering and processing practices and, once released in the body, produces the Shiga-producing toxins that have been linked to kidney damage in young children, and can also lead to kidney failure and death. Yet, in recent years the transmission route for E. coli is shifting and not always caused by meat consumption. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there are over 110,000 cases of E. coli infection and 90 deaths linked to E. coli occurring in the U.S. annually.

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