Frequently Asked Questions
- Is bottled water regulated?
- How do I know that my bottled water is safe?
- Does bottled water have to be free of contaminants?
- What are the types of contaminants for which bottled water is checked?
- How does bottled water differ from tap water?
- What is the difference between Spring and Purified Water?
- How long can I store bottled water?
- What is the concern over bromides?
- What if am unsure which contaminants are in my water?
- Where can I get additional information on the health effects of contaminants that may be harmful to me?
- Does the EPA regulate both health and aesthetic contaminants?
- What is BPA and how does it relate to polycarbonate bottles?
- What is Cryptosporidium?
- How do I know that Cryptosporidium is not in my bottled water?
- Where does your spring water come from?
- What is the IBWA?
- What is the Global Food Safety Institute (GFSI)?
- What is SQF?
- Can you manufacture products that meet kosher certification?
Yes. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for regulating bottled water products that are either imported or sold between states.
Bottled water, one of the most regulated food products, is subject to three levels of regulations and standards: federal, state and industry.
1. Federal Regulations
On a federal level, bottled water is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a food product to ensure bottled water product safety from production to packaging to consumption.
All bottled water products must comply with FDA’s Quality Standards listed in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) including:
- Standards of Quality
- Standards of Identity (such as labeling regulations and standardized terms)
- Good Manufacturing Practices (such as plant construction, sanitary facilities and process controls)
- The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 (such as maintaining records and registering bottling and operations/sales facilities with the FDA.)
2. State Standards
In addition to FDA's extensive regulatory requirements, the bottled water industry is subject to state regulatory requirements as well.
A significant responsibility of the states is inspecting, sampling, analyzing and approving sources of water. Under the federal GMPs, only approved sources of water can be used to supply a bottling plant. Although regulations vary from state to state, in general they cover the following:
- State Labeling
- Laboratory Certification
- Quality Standards
- Bottling Plant Permits
- Water Sources
- Product Labeling
Another area in which some states have important responsibilities that complement federal regulation is the certification of testing laboratories. As with any food establishment, the states perform unannounced plant inspections, and some states perform annual inspections.
3. IBWA Standards
Bottled water companies that are members of the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) must adhere to stringent industry standards. IBWA has established a quality assurance program, a strict set of standards called the Model Code of Practice. In some instances, the IBWA Model Code is stricter than FDA regulations. The IBWA is also active at all levels of the local, state and federal government assisting in the development of such regulations. As a member of the IBWA, we must comply with the following standards:
- Annual, unannounced inspections by third-party auditors
- Audits of all areas of plant production
- Adherence to the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) Program
- Compliance audits of federal and state regulations and industry standards
Not only do we comply with bottled water regulations, we take it a step further. We produce high quality bottled water that is crisp, refreshing and tastes great.
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Consumers can trust that bottled water is safe for many reasons. The first is that bottled water is strictly regulated on the federal level by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and on the state level by state officials. This ensures that all bottled water sold in the United States meets these stringent standards. In addition, members of the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), who produce about 85% of the bottled water sold in the United States, must meet strict industry standards established by the association.These standards, contained in the IBWA "Model Code", exceed the FDA regulations currently in place for bottled water. To ensure that all their bottled water is as safe as possible and of the highest quality, all IBWA members use one or more of the following practices: source protection and monitoring, reverse osmosis, distillation, filtration, ozonation and disinfection. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), bottled water has never been responsible for an outbreak of waterborne illness.
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Although bottled water products do not have to be 100% free of all contaminants, any contaminants that are present must be below the maximum permitted level established by the FDA or the state. Consumers can contact the bottler directly to obtain a report showing what contaminants, if any, are present in their bottled water product.
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- Aesthetic Contaminants (affect the taste, odor, or color of the water)
- Inorganic parameters, including iron, manganese, zinc, chloride, sulfate, total dissolved solids, and fluoride
- Physical characteristics, including color, odor, and pH.
- Health-Related Contaminants (a potential health hazard has been established)
- Inorganic parameters, including arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury, as well as contaminants such as nitrite and nitrate
- Volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), including benzene, trichloroethylene, and tetrachloroethylene (dry cleaning solvents), and trihalomethanes such as chloroform (chlorination by-products)
- Herbicides, pesticides, and PCBs
- Physical characteristics, such as turbidity, and radioactive elements, such as radium and strontium
- Coliform bacteria, which, although not disease-causing themselves, indicate the possibility that other disease-causing bacteria, may be present. Bottled water companies are required to adequately disinfect their water prior to bottling, using an approved process such as ozonation, ultraviolet disinfection, or chlorination.
The source, taste, and treatment methods used are some of the principle differences between bottled water and tap water.
Municipalities and private water utilities most often use chlorine to disinfect tap water, which can leave an aftertaste and lead to the development of chlorination byproducts. Many bottled water producers use ozone or ultraviolet disinfection instead.
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In the bottled water industry, the two most common types of water are spring water and purified water. Because the average consumer doesn't fully understand the differences, they're often left wondering which of the two products to buy when confronted with the choice. Since most consumers are unaware of the specific treatment guidelines behind each type of water, they generally make their selection based on their perceived preference for spring versus purified water on brand name or price.
The FDA classifies bottled water according to its origin.
Purified Water Specifications
Bottled water that has been treated by distillation, reverse osmosis, or other suitable process and that meets the definition of "purified water" in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia can be labeled as "purified water." This water may be sources from spring or municipal systems.
Spring Water Specifications
Spring water must be derived from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the earth's surface. Spring water must be collected only at the spring or through a borehole tapping the underground formation feeding the spring. If some external force is used to collect the water through a borehole, the water must have the same composition and quality as the water that naturally flows to the surface.
According to the labeling guidelines set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), spring water must come from a pure, natural source and cannot have minerals added or taken away. This means that to label and sell bottled water as spring water, the water can be filtered (but only to a certain level) and disinfected by ozone or ultraviolet (UV) light. At the source or in the bottling plant, the spring water is first filtered to remove physical particles. This step acts as the first barrier against possible biological contaminants such as bacteria, viruses or cysts. In order to ensure a bacteria-free environment, the bottler typically provides a second barrier, which is a disinfection step that uses ozone and/or UV light. This multi-barrier approach ensures that no contamination can make its way to the water at the time of bottling.
When bottled water was first introduced, disinfection steps weren't always practiced. Rather, bottlers would rely on filtration and good sanitary techniques to purify the water and protect against biological re-growth in the bottles. While these steps were adequate, they didn't always provide a multi-barrier approach to eliminate pathogens from the water. As better filtration and disinfection practices emerged, significant biological control was demonstrated. These measures were reviewed and adopted as a standard practice by the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) through its Model Code.
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The FDA has not established a shelf life for Bottled Water. Creekside Springs recommends a two-year shelf life and prints an expiration date on all products. It should be kept in a dry place, out of direct sunlight. It is also necessary to keep it away from toxic chemicals, such as cleaning agents, solvents, or gasoline. Do not store bottled water in your garage.
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Bromide ion is a naturally-occurring salt present in some spring water sources, which may be influenced by saltwater intrusion or certain formations that may leach out bromide ion. The presence of bromide ion isn't an issue in purified water since reverse osmosis is used as the filtration step, removing the bromide ion prior to the disinfection step.
In spring water plants, where bromate levels may be high, using ozone has raised concerns for bottlers, since ozone can facilitate conversion of bromide ion into bromate, a suspected carcinogen. Because of this, bromate is now limited to a maximum contaminant level (MCL) of less than 10 micrograms per liter by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
While bromide isn't found in every water source, its presence cannot be overlooked. In situations where it's present, decisions need to be made. Bottlers first need to determine if the water source is still viable as a spring water source, or if it should be abandoned. This is a difficult decision because spring water sources are limited in number and cannot be recreated. If bromide is present and ozone is being used for disinfection, bottlers need to be aware of the amount of ozone they apply and how accurately they can control the ozone dosage to minimize the conversion rates of bromide to bromate. If the ozone level or contact time with the water is too great, the bottler runs the risk of exceeding the bromate MCL.
Fortunately, there are some tools that Creekside Springs employs to help keep bromate formation under control. To start, the ozone level is carefully measured by using dissolved ozone monitors. Accurately measuring dissolved ozone in the water before it reaches the bottle allows control loops between the ozone generator and monitor, resulting in consistent levels and helping to minimize the amount of bromate conversion possible in bottled water.
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If you are on a municipal water system, contact your water utility and ask for a copy of their Annual Water Quality Report (also called a Consumer Confidence Report). If you are on a private well, contact your local health department and ask for a list of the typical well water contaminants in your area. Another option is to contact an independent laboratory to have your drinking water tested. Your local or state health department can provide you with the names of laboratories accredited by your state to analyze drinking water.
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You can contact your local health department, your personal physician, or the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.
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For health effects contaminants, the U.S. EPA establishes Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for those known to cause, or suspected of causing, health problems. The MCL defines the highest concentration allowed in public water supplies.
For aesthetic contaminants, the water may be safe to drink, but not very pleasant because of an undesirable taste, odor, or color. Some water may also stain clothes and fixtures, corrode plumbing, or form a scale and film. Secondary Maximum Contaminant Levels (SMCLs) are usually recommended by the EPA for these aesthetic water quality factors. SMCLs are useful guides for evaluating the suitability of water for drinking, bathing, clothes washing, cooking, and other domestic uses.
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The EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline (1-800-426-4791) has information on how to get involved with drinking water protection, as well as information on the EPA Drinking Water Maximum Contaminant Levels. Your local health department or state agency dealing with drinking water may also have information regarding the water and contaminants in your area.
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Polycarbonate is traditionally used in the manufacture of returnable 5 and 3 gallon bottles as well as refillable personal water bottles and baby bottles.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical used primarily to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins – both of which are used in countless applications that make our lives easier, healthier and safer, each and every day. www.bisphenol-a.org is a comprehensive resource for environmental, health and safety information about bisphenol A.
Recent media stories and a statement issued by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) have raised questions about the safety of polycarbonate plastic bottles due to the presence of a substance known as bisphenol A (BPA). The IBWA recently responded:
- Bottled water is comprehensively regulated as a food product by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Plastic food and beverage containers, including polycarbonate plastic made with BPA, must meet or exceed all FDA requirements. FDA clears all food-contact plastics for their intended use based on migration and safety data. The clearance process includes stringent requirements for estimating the levels at which such materials may transfer to the diet. FDA's safety criteria require extensive toxicity testing for any substance that may be ingested at more than negligible levels. This means FDA has affirmatively determined that, when cleared plastics are used as intended in food-contact applications, the nature and amount of substances that may migrate, if any, are safe.
- Polycarbonate plastic has been the material of choice for food and beverage product containers for nearly 50 years because it is lightweight, highly shatter-resistant, and transparent. During that time, many studies have been conducted to assess the potential for trace levels of BPA to migrate from polycarbonate bottles into foods or beverages. The conclusions from those studies and comprehensive safety evaluations by government bodies worldwide are that polycarbonate bottles are safe for consumer use.
- The April 14, 2008 NTP Draft Brief on BPA confirms that there are no serious or high level concerns for adverse effects of BPA on human reproduction and development. Steven G. Hentges, Ph.D., of the American Chemistry Council’s Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group, states that the “findings in NTP’s draft report provide reassurance that consumers can continue to use products made from bisphenol A. Importantly, this conclusion has been affirmed by scientific and government bodies worldwide.”
- The NTP Draft Brief confirms that human exposure to BPA is extremely low and noted no direct evidence in humans that exposure to BPA adversely affects reproduction or development. The limited evidence for effects in laboratory animals at low doses primarily highlights opportunities for additional research to better understand whether these findings are of any significance to human health.
- For more information on this issue, visit the American Chemistry Council’s website at www.factsonplastic.com or www.bisphenol-a.org
Cryptosporidium is a waterborne parasite that lives in animals and can be passed into the water through their waste. Cryptosporidium oocysts from animal wastes have been found in rivers, streams, lakes, reservoirs and many other types of surface water.
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Bottled water companies are required to use approved sources. There are two types of sources from which bottled water can be drawn: the first type is natural sources (i.e. springs and wells). By law, these sources must be protected from surface intrusion and other environmental influences. This requirement ensures that surface water contaminants such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia are not present.
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Creekside Springs’ spring water comes from our own protected springs located in Columbiana County, OH. Our springs have been inspected by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) and exceed their standards. Our springs have been certified by the IBWA and the State of Ohio to be a true natural spring, not a well or borehole as used by many others.
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The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is the trade association representing the bottled water industry. Founded in 1958, IBWA's member companies produce and distribute 85 percent of the bottled water sold in the United States. Their membership includes more than 1,200 U.S.-based and international bottlers, distributors and suppliers.
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The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) is a collaboration between some of the world's leading food safety experts from retailer, manufacturer and food service companies, as well as service providers associated with the food supply chain. It is coordinated by The Consumer Goods Forum, the only independent global network for consumer goods retailers and manufacturers worldwide. It serves the CEOs and senior management of nearly 400 members, in over 150 countries.
In May 2000, following a number of food safety scares, a group of international retailer CEOs identified the need to enhance food safety, ensure consumer protection and to strengthen consumer confidence. They launched the Global Food Safety Initiative which sets requirements for food safety schemes through a benchmarking process in order to improve cost efficiency throughout the food supply chain.
For more information on GFSI certification, please visit www.mygfsi.com.
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The SQF (Safe Quality Food) Program is a leading, global food safety and quality certification program and management system, designed to meet the needs of buyers and suppliers worldwide. The Program provides independent certification that a supplier's food safety and quality management system complies with international and domestic food safety regulations. This enables suppliers to assure their customers that food has been produced, processed, prepared and handled according to the highest possible standards, at all levels of the supply chain.
Both Creekside manufacturing plants have now received SQF Level 3 Certification: Salineville, OH and Ambridge, PA. In order to receive SQF certification, each of these plants was audited to reassure customers that the product has been produced, processed, prepared and handled according to internationally-recognized quality standards.
The total certification process took about 18 months. Achieving Level 3 SQF Certification fits our organization’s commitment to produce quality products and assure customer and consumer confidence.
SQF is designed as a food safety program, but it also covers product quality, a feature that is unique to a certification program of this type. Assuring consistent quality and meeting buyer specifications are important aspects of the buyer-supplier relationship.
SQF certification is supported by an increasing number of U.S. and international retailers and foodservice providers who express a preference for suppliers who implement HACCP-based (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) food safety and quality management systems.
Yes. When requested, Creekside Springs has included the OU (Orthodox Union) kosher certification symbol on the labels of certified products.
For over 80 years, the Orthodox Union has maintained the highest standard of kosher certification. Today, the OU supervises more than 400,000 products, making it the world’s most recognized and most trusted kosher symbol.
The OU rigorously monitors all aspects of production. It supervises the process by which the water is processed, examines the ingredients regularly inspects the processing facilities to make sure that its standards are met.
All Creekside Springs facilities are inspected regularly for kosher certification by the Orthodox Union.