ORLANDO — With the media watching the bottled water business for missteps and untruths, a firm grounding in the regulations surrounding the industry and its safety during crisis response is key, according to William Hirst, the vice president of Education, Science and Technical Relations for the International Bottled Water Association.
Speaking at a seminar called Bottled Water 101 during the InterBev conference here, Hirst discussed the ways the FDA and individual states monitor bottled water as part of overarching programs designed to protect water supplies from contamination. While the FDA lists bottled water as a low-risk product, but it does set standards for source water and if a supply was contaminated, Hines said, the FDA would expect bottlers to investigate the cause, rectify the situation and prove the problem was fixed by collecting five separate samples from the supply over a 24-hour period. Bottlers would then be required to keep records of this process for up to two years.
A key point during Hirst’s talk was how the industry could and would respond to either a natural disaster or a threat to national security. In explaining changes to food defense since September 11, 2001, Hirst introduced attendees to the Food and Agriculture Sector Coordinating Council (FASCC), which was established to help companies prepare for future emergencies. The IBWA participates in the council, Hirst said, working to help plan the best courses of action for industry response.
Hirst closed the seminar by highlighting different types of water classifications. For instance, spring water is sourced from where natural water flows naturally to the earth, and can only be collected at the spring. On the other hand, purified water – or processed water –is changed via reverse osmosis or distillation. He stressed that adding any substance to water turns it into a “water beverage.” Adding minerals to water may enhance the water also, but the FDA will not allow manufacturers to discuss the health benefits of these substances. Hirst even joked that the only claim that can be made about bottled water is that it hydrates.