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What Federal Agency Regulates the Bottled Water Industry?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the federal agency that regulates the bottled water industry in the United States. The bottled water industry is also regulated on the State level and international level as well. Regulating the bottled water industry is important because it can protect individuals from bad actors and negligence. It is important to understand that regulations are different for bottled water and tap water.

What is the FDA?

The FDA is a US federal agency that sits within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The FDA’s mission focuses on the following: 

protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation. The FDA also provides accurate, science-based health information to the public.

Bottled water is considered within the food supply, and is therefore regulated by the FDA. In addition, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act is the primary water bottle regulation. 

While the FDA’s name can make one believe the FDA only focuses on food and drugs, it regulates other industries that pertain to public health (e.g., contraception devices). The FDA also has critics as studies have found that “drug trials submitted to regulatory authorities have documented selective reporting of both entire trials and favorable results”, according to “Reporting bias in drug trials submitted to the Food and Drug Administration: review of publication and presentation.” by Kirstin Rising, Peter Bacchetti, and Lisa Bero. 

Why does the Bottled Water Industry Need Regulating?

The bottled water industry needs regulation because it will help ensure bottled water is safe to drink. The bottled water industry is a billion dollar industry, and billions of gallons of bottled water are drunk every year. In addition, some consumer surveys show individuals prefer bottled water over tap water for “two main factors: dissatisfaction with tap water organoleptic (especially taste) and health/risk concerns”, according to “Bottled water versus tap water: understanding consumers’ preferences.” in the Journal of water and health by Miguel F. Doria. Therefore, a regulator is needed to ensure companies do not take shortcuts or put harmful chemicals into bottled water.

What are the Differences in Bottled Water vs Tap Water Regulations?

Bottled water is regulated by the FDA because it is a packaged item that individuals digest. However, tap water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA regulations may be more strict because water is a part of the environment and impacts nearly everything in nature.


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