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California Regulation

EWG's Bottled Water Scorecard, 2011: California Regulation

January 25, 2012

Bottled water companies flout California labeling law

In 2007, California passed a law (SB 220) designed to reverse the dearth of basic public data about the quality of bottled water. The law mandates that waters bottled after Jan. 1, 2009 and sold in California must label both the source of the water and two ways for consumers to contact the company for a water quality report.

Barely one-third of bottled
waters surveyed comply with
California's labeling law

Source: EWG research, including analysis of 96 bottled waters purchased in California, and personal communication with bottled water companies.

However, EWG's inspection of labels on 96 bottled waters purchased in California found that only 34 percent comply.

More than a quarter did not comply with the law, failing to include mandatory data on the label or failing to provide a water quality report upon request, as the law requires.

It is clear that many companies are ignoring the law and continuing to hide basic data from their customers. The shameful breakdown is as follows:

 

 

California's bottled water law

California's bottled water law, SB 220, championed by California Senator Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro), was designed to provide consumers with "the same water quality 'right to know' protections and regulatory oversight... as those established for tap water."

The SB 220 Bill
The bill was passed and signed into law in 2007 over the opposition of the California Bottled Water Association and the International Bottled Water Association (State of California Legislative Counsel 2010) and went into effect on Jan. 1, 2009.

Link to SB 220:
Click Here

SB 220 amended sections of CaliforniaÕs Sherman Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Law dealing with bottled water.

Our Survey

EWG found that more than a quarter of bottled water brands surveyed fail to comply.

  • 30 percent of bottled water brands are out of compliance: More than a quarter of the brands EWG surveyed (29 of 96) do not comply with the law, failing to include required information on the label — such as a 1-800 number that consumers can call to get a water quality report — or failing to provide a water quality report when one was requested. These products all list bottling dates later than the law's effective date of Jan. 1, 2009 or were unable or unwilling to provide us with a water quality report when contacted after that date. Among them were products from the top two imported brands, Fiji and Perrier.

  • An additional 35 percent may be out of compliance: EWG suspects that an additional 34 brands are also flouting the law, but they don't show their bottling dates on their labels so we can't be sure. For 12 of these brands, at least one label we obtained failed to provide the information required under the California law, and listed an expiration date on or after Jan. 1, 2011. Based on a typical two-year shelf life, these products were likely bottled after the law took effect. For the other 22 brands, at least one bottle failed to provide the required information, but neither the expiration nor bottling date was given, making it impossible to know whether the water was bottled before or after the law's effective date.
  • Only 34 percent of bottled water brands are in compliance: Only 33 of 96 brands surveyed clearly complied with California's labeling law, with all labels and contact routes for water quality data providing the basic information required on source and purity. This is a generous number, since fifteen of these brands publish water quality reports that lack any actual water quality testing results. EWG suspects that companies doing so are taking advantage of vague language in the law's mandate for a water quality report.

     

These discouraging findings raise the question: What's in the bottle? Why is the industry reluctant to tell its customers what they're drinking?

EWG researchers expected to find wide compliance with the law in California and a ripple effect that would improve labels nationwide, since brands providing this information in one state could easily do so in others as well. What we found, however, came as a surprise. Many companies failed to list the mandatory information even in California.

Companies willing to ignore state law to keep information from their customers may have something to hide. Perhaps bottled water companies are banking on the state Attorney General's office turning a blind eye, focusing its limited resources on other issues. In the meantime, bottled water drinkers are left in the dark.


California brands are more likely to provide contact information on their labels than brands sold elsewhere but not much more likely to comply with other provisions in the law.

  Purchased outside of California Purchased in California
Labels disclosing water's geographic source 71% 61%
Labels listing contact information 32% 69%
Companies providing a water quality report 33% 41%
Companies providing a full water quality report
that includes test results
21% 23%

Details - The disappointing status of bottled waters relative to requirements of California's SB 200 labeling law


Twenty-nine of the 96 bottled waters EWG surveyed did not comply with key provisions of SB 220, failing to label the required information (and bearing bottling dates after Jan. 1, 2010), or failing to provide a water quality report as promised.

29 Products out of compliance with SB 220

Product Reason for non-compliance Bottling date
(Walgreens) Drinking Water Only one means of contacting company for a water report listed on label (a telephone number). 23-Aug-10
Alhambra Crystal-Fresh Purified Water Company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. 30-Jun-10
Aquafina Purified Drinking Water Label does not list all the required information; Additionally, company was unable to provide a water quality report in response to EWG's request in 2010. not listed
Archer Farms Natural Spring Water Label lists all the required information but company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. not listed
Bristol Farms Drinking Water Label lists all the required information but company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. not listed
Cool Springs Purified Drinking Water Label does not list all the required information; Additionally, company was unable to provide a water quality report in response to EWG's request in 2010. not listed
Eden Springs Artesian Water Label lists all the required information but company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. not listed
Evamor Alkaline Artesian Water Beverage Label does not include contact information for obtaining a water report. 30-Apr-10
Fiji Natural Artesian Water Neither of the California labels assessed list two means of contacting company for a water report. In both cases only a telephone number was listed. 3-Jun-10
Fry's Purified Drinking Water Label does not include contact information for obtaining a water report. 20-Mar-10
Gerber Graduates LilÕ Water Purified Water Label lists all the required information but company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. not listed
Gerolsteiner Naturally Sparkling Mineral Water Label lists all the required information but company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. not listed
Green Planet Pure Handcrafted Water Label does not include contact information for obtaining a water report. 14-May-10
h2O Natural Spring Water Company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. 08-May-09
Iceland Spring Natural Spring Water Contact information for obtaining a water report not listed on label. 23-Jul-09
Icelandic Glacial Natural Spring Water Contact information for obtaining a water report not listed on label. 3-May-10
Kroger Purified Drinking Water Company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. 31-Aug-10
Market Pantry Purified Water Company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. 7-May-10
Naya Canadian Natural Spring Water Company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. 22-Feb-10
Neuro Aqua Natural Spring Water Label lists all the required information but company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. not listed
Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water Company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. 06-Nov-09
Project 7 House the Homeless Natural Spring Water Label lists all the required information but company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. not listed
Sam's Choice Purified Drinking Water Company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. 30-Aug-10
San Benedetto Premium Artesian Water Contact information for obtaining a water report not listed on label. 04-Aug-10
The Natural Cafe Purified Drinking Water Label does not list all the required information; Additionally, company was unable to provide a water quality report in response to EWG's request in 2010. not listed
Trader Joe's Electrolyte Enhanced Water Label lists all the required information but company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. not listed
Trader Joe's Natural Mountain Spring Water Label lists all the required information but company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. not listed
Trader Joe's Pure New Zealand Artesian Water Label lists all the required information but company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. not listed
Voss Artesian Water Contact information for obtaining a water report not listed on label. 12-May-10

 

Twelve of the 38 bottled waters we suspect to be out of compliance with California's labeling law, including products from the CVS brand, Gold Emblem, bear expiration dates later than Jan. 1, 2011; the 2-year shelf life typical for the industry places the bottling date after Jan. 1, 2009, indicating likely non-compliance.

12 Products suspected to be out of compliance with SB 220 - mandatory label information is missing, and their relatively recent expiration dates suggest they were bottled after the law's effective date.

Product Reason for non-compliance Expiration date
CVS Gold Emblem Natural Spring Water Only one means of contacting company for a water report listed on label (a telephone number). 29-Apr-12
CVS Gold Emblem Purified Drinking Water Only one means of contacting company for a water report listed on label (a telephone number). 30-Jul-12
Essentia Purified Water Company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. 31-May-12
GIVE Life [to children in need] Natural Spring Water Label does not include contact information for obtaining a water report. 27-Apr-12
H2Om Natural Spring Water Label does not include contact information for obtaining a water report. Jan 03 11
Hawaii Water Bottled Water Label does not include contact information for obtaining a water report. 12-May-11
Hawaiian Springs Young Natural Artesian Water Label does not include contact information for obtaining a water report. 24-Feb-12
Lissa Natural Mineral Water Label does not include contact information for obtaining a water report. 06-Mar-11
Sunnyside Farms Drinking water Label does not include contact information for obtaining a water report. 05-Sep-12
Sunnyside Farms Purified water Label does not include contact information for obtaining a water report. 17-Aug-12
Sunnyside Farms Spring water Label does not include contact information for obtaining a water report. 06-Sep-12
Ty Nant Spring Water Label does not include contact information for obtaining a water report. 18-Nov-11

 

For 22 of the 38 bottled waters we suspect to be out of compliance with California's labeling law, at least one bottle we assessed failed to provide information required under California's labeling law, but neither an expiration nor a bottling date was listed on these products, making it impossible to know if the water was bottled before or after the law's effective date.

22 products suspected to be out of compliance with California labeling law, but with no bottling date or expiration date, EWG was unable to verify status

Product
Alhambra Jr. Sport Crystal-Fresh Purified Water
Acqua Panna Natural Spring Water
Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino Purified Drinking Water
Deja Blue Purified Drinking Water
Ethos Water Natural Spring Water
Floravita 2000 Supra-Aqua Ultrapure Premium Water
Give Hope [to women with breast cancer] Natural Spring Water
Glacia IceBox Pure Arctic Spring Water
Ice Age Premium Glacier Water
Leggera Natural Mineral Water
New Zealand Wai Artesian Water
O Water Sport Electrolyte Enhanced Purified Drinking Water
Pure American Spring Water
Pure Swiss Mineral Water
Ralphs Purified Drinking Water
Real Alkalized Water
Sahara Premium Drinking Water
Saratoga Natural Spring Water
UNHCR Earth Water Demineralized Water
Volvic Natural Spring Water
Waiwera Still Artesian Water
World Market Natural Spring Water

 

 

For only 33 of 96 bottled waters surveyed, all labels and contact routes for water quality data provided the information required under California's labeling law. Even this is a generous number since fifteen of these publish "water quality" reports that lack any actual testing results (noted with asterisk in table below). SB 220 is ambiguous on this point, requiring that companies provide a report upon request but lacking specificity on the obvious need for a water quality report to include information about test results.

California's precedent-setting disclosure law has paved the way for similar measures in other jurisdictions. EWG is advocating for stricter requirements. A bottled water company fully complying with California's law could earn as few as 3.1 out of 10 points in EWG's transparency rating system — a "D." To get a higher grade the company would have to also list its treatment method on the label, provide a recent water quality report that contains test results and publish online information on the water's geographic source, treatment methods and purity. These additions would boost a company's grade to a "B" in EWG's rating system and are measures EWG would like to see included in proposals from jurisdictions choosing to follow California's lead.

33 Products In Compliance with SB 220

Product
365 Everyday Value Spring Water
7 Select Spring Water*
Aquarius Spring! Natural Spring Water*
Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water
Calistoga Sparkling Mineral Water
Crystal Geyser Natural Alpine Spring Water
Crystal Lake Spring Water*
Dasani Purified Water*
Deluge Premium Spring Water
Evian Natural Spring Water
Famous Ramona Natural Mountain Spring Water*
Gerber Pure Purified Water
Glaceau Smartwater
Good Stuff by AMPM Purified Drinking Water*
Great Value Drinking Water*
Great Value Purified Drinking Water*
Great Value Spring Water*
Kirkland Signature Premium Drinking Water*
Mountain Valley Spring Water
Nestle Pure Life Purified Water
New Zealand Eternal Artesian Water
Niagara Purified Drinking Water*
Nursery Purified Water
O.N.E. One Natural Experience Natural Spring Water
Penta Ultra-Purified Water
re-source Natural Spring Water
Refreshe Purified Drinking Water*
Refreshe Spring Water*
Roxane Mountain Spring Water
S. Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral Water
Simplify Purified Water*
Sparkletts Crystal-Fresh Purified Water
Sunny Select Drinking Water*

 

* Indicates that company provides a water quality report as SB 220 requires, but it does not contain any water quality testing results.

 

SB 220 requires companies to label the name and contact information for the bottler or brand owner, the source of the bottled water, and a statement that informs consumers about how to access water quality information contained in the bottled water report. The statement must: (i) include the term "water quality and information" appropriately, while informing customers about methods of gaining access to the full bottled water report; and (ii) provide a telephone number, where information can be requested from the bottled water company and one other means of contact for the bottled water company, including, but not limited to, a mailing address, e-mail address, or the bottled water company's Web site.

 

References

State of California Legislative Counsel 2010. Analysis SB 220. Available: http://leginfo.ca.gov/pub/07-08/bill/sen/sb_0201-0250/sb_220_cfa_20070911_180652_sen_floor.html [accessed September 20, 2010].