A Vote of Confidence for Label Transparency

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Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA) believes that people have a right to know where their water comes from and what’s in it – and they should be able to easily find that information.  This transparency and consumer focus has been a point of pride for us, and now a bipartisan group from the U.S. Congress has introduced legislation to make it the law of the land.

Our company, together with the International Bottled Water Association, salutes federal legislation introduced by Representative Renee Ellmers (R-NC), Representative Jim Matheson (D-UT), and Representative Richard Nugent (R-FL) that would provide consumers with uniform information about the quality and safety of their bottled water products.  Since its introduction in June, the legislation, H.R. 4798, has gained momentum and co-sponsors, including U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., Jim Himes, D-Conn., Joe Courtney, D-Conn. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Scott Peters, D-Calif.

International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) President and CEO Joe Doss said it well, “When it comes to packaged beverages, more and more people are choosing bottled water.  In fact, bottled water is predicted to be the number one packaged beverage sold in the U.S. by 2020.  The ‘Bottled Water Quality Information Act’ (H.R. 4978) will make it easier for consumers to obtain clear, consistent, and comprehensive information about the bottled water products they buy.”

For years at NWNA, our labels have been the gateway to the full extent of our brands’ water quality information, because we believe transparency supports the confidence people have in our product quality. While some others have followed this example, it’s time for a ‘one best way’ federal approach so that every American knows what is in their water.

The Bottled Water Quality Information Act requires bottled water producers to annually prepare, and make available upon request, a bottled water quality report.  The report would include the type of water source; treatment methods used by the bottler; and test results for the microbiological, physical, chemical, and radiological quality of bottled water, as prescribed by federal regulations.

Bottled water labels are already required to provide consumers with information such as the name and address of the manufacturer or distributor and a statement of identity that defines the type of bottled water product.  This proposed legislation goes further by adding the requirement that each bottled water label include the name and contact information of the bottled water manufacturer or distributor, the type of water source (e.g., spring, artesian, well, public water system), and a statement on how consumers may obtain the bottled water quality report also required under the bill.

It’s important to note that bottled water is comprehensively regulated by the FDA as a packaged food product.  By federal law, the FDA regulations governing the safety and quality of bottled water must be at least as stringent as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards for public water systems.  And, in some very important cases like lead, coliform bacteria, and E. coli, bottled water regulations are more stringent.

All packaged foods and beverages, including bottled water, are subject to extensive FDA labeling requirements. However, there is limited space available on bottled water labels due to existing extensive federal label requirements. A uniform, federal labeling standard will ensure that label space is efficiently utilized and that the information provided to consumers is consistent across all markets.

Our company began working on this legislation more than four years ago with the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey.  Sadly, the Senator passed away before filing the legislation we were working on, but we are very happy that the IBWA brought the full industry into support of a federal standard and pleased that it has gained bipartisan authors in the House of Representatives.  We look forward to building support for this in the Congress.

CLICK HERE for a copy of the bill.
CLICK HERE for a copy of the legislative overview

Brian Flaherty is Vice President for Government Affairs at Nestlé Waters North America, and directs the company’s federal, state, and local government and legislative relations.