November 8, 1995
Web posted at: 5:15 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Elizbeth Halsey
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Americans now chug $3 billion a year worth of bottled water, but what's in the wet stuff? Definitions for such lofty names as "spring water," "mineral water" and "sparkling bottled water" vary widely, leaving consumers on dry land.
Now, the Food and Drug Administration has issued truth in labeling rules for bottled water. For example, for a product to be called "spring water," it must really come from a spring. And for it to be called "mineral water," it must come from a protected underground source and contain at least 250 parts per million in total dissolved solids.
If it comes from a municipal source, the water must say so unless it's been purified or distilled. "Consumers pay a premium for bottled water," said the FDA's Terry Troxell. "Many people believe that this is water from some special ground source and do not expect it to be from the community water system."
The International Bottled Water Association, a trade group representing the industry, says it welcomes the new rules. So do individual companies that have complained for years about the lack of a level playing field.
Jane Lazgin of the Perrier Group called the old ways a "crazy quilt" of definitions. She says her company believes consumers shouldn't have to think before they drink. (112K AIFF sound or 112K WAV sound)
The new rules also say that bottled water for babies may need to carry labels saying it should be boiled. Quality standards for bottled water have been in place since 1973 but the new rules should give consumers more confidence about the sources of their water. The rules will become law in six months.
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