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Bottled Water Industry to EWG: Shut Up!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

When the head of a public interest group (like, say, EWG) receives a threatening letter from one of the nation's top industry lobbyists, it generally means he's done something right. On January 27, 2011, Joseph Doss president of the International Bottled Water Association demanded that Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook and his organization stop ranking and rating various bottled water brands. A good sign: Our reports hit a nerve with industry EWG's 2011 bottled water scorecard hit a nerve with the industry. We found that many brands routinely fail to provide information to consumers about the water's specific geographic source, purification methods and the results of purity testing. Overall, more than half of the 173 bottled water brands surveyed flunked EWG's transparency test. Only 3 of the 173 brands we surveyed divulged answers to these three questions:

  • Where does the water come from?
  • Is it purified? How?
  • Have tests found any contaminants?

Many brands make vague claims of a pristine source or purity -- but offer few concrete facts. If people are willing to pay up 1,900 times the cost of tap water, they deserve better than that. They told EWG to "cease and desist" "IBWA demands that the Environmental Working Group immediately cease and desist from making and propagating false, misleading, unsubstantiated, and disparaging statements about the labeling and quality of bottled water," Doss wrote in a letter to Cook. We're having it framed. Misleading and unsubstantiated statements? Hardly. We extensively surveyed websites and labels and called dozens of customer service numbers to nail down the facts. We reported to the public precisely what we found - no more, no less. If Doss would like to address some of the claims his members make on their labels, we're all ears. For instance, what does this boast even mean (courtesy of Oregon Rain Natural Virgin Water)?

"100% rainwater. Over the Pacific Ocean, where fresh, cold air from the North Pole meets warm air from the equator, clouds dripping with naturally clean, pure water are produced. These clouds travel from the ocean, avoiding populated areas and arrive over the Willamette Valley. There on a specialized farm, Oregon Rain captures the water, passes it through a one-third micron filter and ozonates it in the bottle. The result is truly Heaven in a Glass."

We deconstruct more marketing hype in our 2011 bottled water labeling study. You have a right to know Water utilities are required by law to test regularly for pollutants and make yearly reports to customers. The bottled water industry doesn't have to tell the consumer a single thing about the contaminants inside those plastic bottles. Apparently, Doss and the bottled water industry want to keep it that way. These intimidation tactics by the bottled water industry and its Washington, D.C. lobbyists won't fly. EWG will keep doing what it does best - advancing the public's right to know about what's in food, water and household protects. If you agree with us, drop Joseph Doss a note. Here's his email: jdoss@bottledwater.org. And here's EWG President Ken Cook's letter back to Doss - it's a good read.

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