Misleading Marketing Claims on Bottled Water

Water Bottle Industry Marketing

THE DECEIVING WATER BOTTLE INDUSTRY

Misleading Marketing Claims on Bottled Water

Bottled water is currently the #1 beverage product, exceeding soda as America's favorite drink of preference. The presence of false advertising on water bottles is abundantly transparent in the market today. The images of crystal clear geysers and the claims exclaiming purity insinuate the idea of superiority over public tap water. These messages that the water bottle industry conveys are misleading us to believe that bottled water is better, safer, and healthier compared to water that’s available in most homes in the United States.

Terms to be Conscious of

Some recognizable claims you might see on water bottle labels range from ionized, spring, filtered, purified, electrolyte enhanced, and alkaline. A precise example of a misleading label claim is based on lawsuit convicting Poland Spring water bottles of conveying false advertisements. Poland Spring’s website and label declare that the water is “100% natural spring water”, but according to the case against them, “not one drop” comes from a natural spring. The company collects water from multiple groundwater sites in Maine from areas that were proven to be in close proximity to contaminated valleys, such as waste dumps, landfills, ash piles, and toxic petroleum sites. Poland Spring rebuttal argues that their water is disinfected with a number of different processing, but did not deny that their groundwater locations are near said sites.

Alkaline is the most commonly seen marketing terms and has gained major popularity within the last few years. Advocates claim that alkaline water has health advantages by maintaining the body at an alkaline state, as opposed to an acidic state. There is no consensus in the medical community that consuming alkaline water has any significant effect on pH levels or provide additional benefits. The reason why so many manufacturers capitalize on the idea of alkalinity is that a lot of bottling companies use extreme filtration measures, which create the water to be more acidic. The theory that drinking substances at an alkaline state is better for your health originated the same idea that the alkaline diet originated from: a study based on sufferers of acid reflux. The study showed that individuals with acid reflux consuming alkaline water neutralized the symptoms slightly. As for normal functioning individuals, the body has systems in place that control the pH levels of alkalinity and acidity on its own. Drinking alkaline water has little to no impact on your body, and certainly no impact on how our bodies absorb the water. Claims suggesting that alkaline water gives your body “superior hydration” is completely false, and has no sound supporting evidence.

It’s All About Marketing

The Food and Water Watch reported that some water bottle companies are explicitly targeting health-conscious and family-oriented communities in lower-income areas. In places where safe tap water isn't an option, the top priority of government agencies should be to make it an option by instituting funds and resources for unprivileged areas. The money being spent to supply major companies within the water bottle industry should be spent on filtration system installations, agency approved testing and safety protocols. Bottled water was never intended to be a permanent solution to providing safe and reliable drinking water for the US, and was meant in emergency situations only. The notion to change the way of rationalizing towards the use of bottled water is long overdue.

One of the most concerning reasons prompting consumers to pour money on bottled water is the continued lack of transparency in agencies that are meant to regulate and provide uncontaminated drinking water. Bottled water is actually no safer than tap water, and in many cases, it can be less safe due to the unregulated industry standards. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates bottled water as a food, whereas the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates tap water under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The FDA requires water bottle companies to do minimal testing for microbiological contaminants and inspects bottling manufacturer irregularly. While, The Safe Drinking Water Act authorizes the EPA to establish standards to preserve public water systems, and run programs to protect underground water from contamination. Although both agencies have a broad amount of flaws, the regulation of tap water compared to bottled water is more strictly controlled.

The Bigger Underlying Problems

The bottled water industry brings many concerns to the table, ranging from toxicities derived from materials used in processing, to extreme environmental issues. According to IBISWorld analyst Nate Gelman, out of the 6 billion pounds of plastic bottles thrown away every year, only about 30% of them are recycled, leaving a mountainous 86% in the landfill. Most manufacturers package their bottles with toxic contaminants that often contain carcinogenic compounds. The only benefit of bottled water is the convenience aspect, as something you can take on-the-go. But is the convenience worth all the environmental consequences? Stainless steel canteens and glass containers are two convenient alternatives from plastic water bottles that don’t contain any toxicities or harm the environment.

Clean and safe drinking water should be available for all communities, 100% free of charge. Bottled water and tap water are both not as regulated as they should be, and advocates are working hard to come up with initiatives to clean up our public water infrastructure. The Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability Act, or the WATER Act, is to establish a trust fund dedicating $35 billion dollars for water infrastructure improvements across the US. Under this act created just this year, the money will be spent on improving the quality control of public water, and funding projects to address water contamination. It would require the EPA to introduce more strict regulations and testings, as well as provide grants to replace lead service lines going into homes and plumbing in schools. Be a part of getting this act finalized by joining the online petition or with your local community organizations.

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