The Canadian Bottled Water Association (CBWA) is taking steps to assure the public about the high standards in place that ensure the safety and quality of bottled water products represented by the association. The attention being focused recently on drinking water has resulted in an increasing number of calls from consumers to the association's offices, questioning how bottled water is regulated and monitored.

"We understand people's concerns," says Elizabeth Griswold, the CBWA's Executive Director, "and we are confident about the quality of bottled water produced by our members. We want to educate the public on some of the basic facts about our standards and regulations, in order to put their minds at rest about the bottled water that they drink."

Ms. Griswold points out that the public is probably unaware that, not only is bottled water regulated by both the federal and provincial governments, but it is categorized as a food product under the Food and Drug Act, which means that the regulations and monitoring are the same as for all other food products sold in Canada. In addition, the Federal Government has established stringent "Quality Standards" specific to the bottled water industry. Water companies are required to test both source and finished product for properties including chemicals, minerals, microbiological contaminants (coliform and E. coli), and other water compounds.

As a condition of membership in the CBWA, water bottlers must go a step further to adhere to the association's own rigorous International Code of Manufacturing Quality Standards. For example, they must undergo unannounced, third-party plant inspections (performed by an internationally recognized agency) that audit water quality and testing records, review all areas of plant operation from source through finished product, and check compliance with the industry Code of Manufacturing Quality Standards. The independent inspectors review everything from plant construction and manufacturing practices, to monitoring the daily bacteriological test results.

'Bottled Water Manufacturing Practices' encompass a range of protective and processing steps, such as reverse osmosis, distillation, ozonation, micron filtration, and source monitoring and protection that are part of a multi- barrier approach to ensure the high quality of the water.

The reliability and quality of bottled water have led it to be recommended for individuals with suppressed or compromised immune systems by Health Canada, U.S. and Canadian Centres for Disease Control, and various HIV/AIDS organizations.

Consumers wishing more information on the bottled water industry, types of bottled water, quality control, association members and other details, should refer to the CBWA's site at www.cbwa-bottledwater.org or call the CBWA at (905) 886-6928.