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Bottled water myths

Avoid bottled water myths and ‘fake news’

In this time of COVID-19 lockdown and uncertainty, don’t let bottled water myths add to anxiety, advises the South African National Bottled Water Association (SANBWA).

Charlotte Metcalf, SANBWA CEO

SANBWA CEO, Charlotte Metcalf (left), asks South Africans to rely on common sense when it came to bottled water purchases saying that remaining hydrated is an important part of everyday health.

“Water, in all its forms, is a vital component of our diet, as well as the healthiest beverage option for societies plagued by diseases such as obesity and diabetes. Spurning a drink of water from a bottle simply because you have been influenced by incorrect facts could be the wrong thing to do. Rather arm yourself with the facts and take care of your health,” she says.

Here are the most common myths about bottled water and SANBWA’s responses:

Bottled water bottles leach harmful chemicals into the water when they are frozen or heated. 

No, they do not. Like most bottles containing other beverages, bottled water bottles in South Africa can be made from glass or PET. PET, or polyethylene terephthalate, is a well-accepted package all over the world and is completely safe to drink from.

The idea that PET bottles ‘leach’ harmful chemicals when frozen or heated in hot cars is not based on any science, and is unsubstantiated by any credible evidence.

Bottled water ‘goes off’ if it is stored too long in the store, in a warehouse or in a cupboard at home.

In theory, unopened bottled water products can usually be stored indefinitely, provided that it was produced according to good manufacturing practises adhering to legislation and SANBWA Standards and that the bottles are kept in the proper environment (cool, dark conditions are best).

However, typically, bottled water manufacturers indicate a shelf life of 1-2 years. The confusion (or problem) arises when organisations try to offer ‘the best of both worlds’.

For example, filtering tap water and filling it in a bottle in a restaurant for on-consumption mimics bottled water as a category but does not offer the safety of bottled water specific legislation.

Bottled water needs to be produced under hygienic food facility conditions to be able to offer shelf life and consumer safety.

You can’t reuse a bottled water bottle.

Like lunch boxes, Tupperware and other food or beverage containers, PET bottles can be re-used if you take steps to prevent the growth of bacteria.

Wash all your containers, not just PET bottles, with hot soapy water and dry thoroughly between each use. Further, when looking for a bottle for long-term use, pay attention to its design and its closure. Make certain you can easily get into all ‘nooks and crannies’ in order to be able to clean them properly.

For general hygiene, and not only in times of a pandemic, you must take extra care to avoid touching the drinking opening and preferably do not share any container with another person.

PET contains many dangerous chemicals like dioxins, BPA and DEHA as well as endocrine disrupters.

No, no, no and no! There is no dioxin in PET plastic. Dioxin, a chlorine-containing chemical that has no role or presence in the chemistry of PET, is formed by combustion in incinerators at temperatures above 1700 F.

Bisphenol A (BPA) is not used to make PET, nor is it used to make any of the component materials used to make PET.

DEHA is not present in PET either as a raw material or as a decomposition product. DEHA is also not classified as a human carcinogen and is not considered to pose any significant health risk to humans. It can be found in water – bottled or tap water – and is then called DOA. DOA is one of the organic containments commonly found at trace levels in just about all drinking water.

There are no substances known that can migrate from PET that could be responsible for the endocrine disruptors (substances having a hormonal effect) identified in a study commonly referred to as the ‘Goethe Study’.

The bottled water industry is wasteful and uses far too much water.

Not at all. Water Footprint is a concept that evaluates the amount of water needed to produce an item of consumption: for example, the production of 1 kg of beef requires 16 000 litres of water, to produce 1 kg of maize requires 900 litres of water, one cup of coffee needs 140 litres of water and to produce one sheet of A4 paper requires 10 litres of water.

Bottled water’s footprint is 1.8 litres.

Looked at it another way, ‘water usage’ refers to how much water is used to make one finished product; in bottled water’s case, one litre of bottled water. This measure includes both direct and indirect water usage (in the bottled water industry, that would be water for rinsing and sanitising bottles, plant and general cleaning and sanitation, vehicle washing, floor washing, toilets etc.) and includes water from boreholes and municipal source.

The South African industry water usage benchmark is 1.8:1. There are plants that achieve ratios of as low as 1.3:1.

People who drink bottled water should be drinking tap water.

They are. One of the biggest myths is assuming that people drink bottled water in place of tap water, which is not the case. Industry research in the USA shows most people who drink bottled water also drink tap water, and they and they choose accessible, calorie-free bottled water as an alternative to less healthy packaged soft and other drinks.

Source: SANBWA: Read its statement on the lockdown here

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