By Lisa Frack
As you might imagine, I read labels before I buy pretty much anything. But when they don't tell me a thing, why bother? Take, for example, bottled water. Labels disclose very little. Makes you wonder, doesn't it? Our new research into 200 popular brands of bottled water shows that less than 2 percent disclose the water's source, how the water has been purified and what chemical pollutants each bottle of water may contain. Just 2 of the 188 individual brands EWG analyzed disclosed these three very basic - and arguably essential - facts about their water. You can easily find your brand with our searchable (and embeddable) widget. Some brands are better than others Somewhat surprisingly, mainstream brands such as Sam's Club and Walgreen's scored relatively high marks, while waters marketed as elite, including Perrier, S. Pellegrino and the Whole Foods store brand, flunked because they provided almost no meaningful information for consumers. Ahhhh, marketing.
Speaking of marketing... Wenonah Hauter, executive director of the non-profit consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch explains the industry's marketing scam:
The Bottled water industry's strategy has been to market bottled water as the safe and clean alternative to tap water. This myth has been used to trick consumers into paying thousands times more for a product that is the same or even more polluted than the water available from our faucets.
Tap water in the United States undergoes rigorous testing for contaminants--as often as 480 times a month, far more than the once-a-week test for bottled water.
Why the glaring lack of disclosure? When EWG's Jane Houlihan testified in Congress yesterday, she reported that bottled water companies enjoy a regulatory holiday under the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, which give beverage corporations complete latitude to choose what, if any, information about their water they divulge to customers.
In contrast, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) -- the federal agency that oversees the nation's municipal water utilities -- requires all 52,000 community tap water suppliers nationwide to produce an annual water quality report: The utilities' reports detail water source and pollutant testing results for customers, as required under the Safe Drinking Water Act. An estimated 58 percent of these reports also describe water treatment methods. Houlihan notes:
Many people assume bottled water is healthier and safer to drink than ordinary tap water. But some companies have lured consumers away from the tap with claims of health and purity that aren't backed by public data. The ugly truth is that under lax federal law, consumers know very little about the quality of bottled water on which they spend billions every year.
You can hear it for yourself on the Today Show:
PS - Thanks a million to our fans who provided us with the bottled water labels - we couldn't have done it without you.