- WEB EXCLUSIVE
- PE COFFEEHAUS
Specifically, the FDA deferred action on DEHP in a final rule published in 1996 and has yet to either adopt a standard or publish a reason for not doing so, the GAO report found. The report also found that FDA's regulation of bottled water, particularly when compared with EPA's regulation of tap water, "reveal key differences in the agencies' statutory authorities."
"Of particular note, FDA does not have the specific statutory authority to require bottlers to use certified laboratories for water quality tests or to report test results, even if violations of the standards are found," the GAO stated in its report highlights section.
Among the report's other findings, state requirements to safeguard bottled water often exceeded those of the FDA, but still were often less comprehensive than state requirements to safeguard tap water.
The FDA and state bottled water labeling requirements are similar to labeling requirements for other foods, but the information provided to consumers is less than what the EPA requires of public water systems under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the report said. Like other foods, bottled water labels must list ingredients and nutritional information and are subject to the same prohibitions against misbranding. In 2000, the FDA concluded that it was feasible for the bottled water industry to provide the same types of information to consumers that public water systems must provide. The agency was not required to conduct rulemaking to require that manufacturers provide such information to consumers, however, and it has not done so.
The GAO report suggested that consumers may benefit from such additional information. For example, when GAO asked cognizant officials in a survey of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, whether their consumers had misconceptions about bottled water, many replied that consumers often believe that bottled water is safer or healthier than tap water. GAO found that information comparable to what public water systems are required to provide to consumers of tap water was available for only a small percentage of the 83 bottled water labels it reviewed, companies it contacted, or company websites it reviewed.