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Food Labeling: Toward National Uniformity
ASSESSMENT OF ADEQUACY AND CONCLUSIONS
Much of the recent controversy, and many of the States' regulatory initiatives, have focused on the safety of bottled water. Although of great importance, this issue falls outside of the scope of NLEA and, therefore, this study. On the other hand, the same States that have expressed concern over Federal quality standards have also believed it necessary to establish nomenclature requirements. Some States and consumer groups believe that the opportunity for public confusion has increased by virtue of the increased number of products in the market and the increasingly aggressive claims made for these products.
In 1973, FDA believed it was evident that bottled water was not any better or purer than tap water. That conclusion may still be factually valid, but the Committee questions whether that view is held by consumers after years of exposure to advertising claims of superiority for bottled and mineral water. As mentioned above, the fact that nearly half the States have established definitions for the different types of bottled and mineral waters on the market is evidence that there is a perception that FDA's efforts here have not been adequate. Although the general misbranding provisions of FDCA could have been used by FDA to prosecute many of the perceived offenders, it is clear that the States believed that the existence of definitions in the form of standards or common or usual names would make their enforcement job easier. Based on the Committee's working principles, it can be concluded that the State laws and regulations that define and/or standardize the names of the various kinds of bottled and mineral waters are appropriately candidates for Federal adoption.
FDA considers "bottled water" to be "water that is sealed in bottles or other containers and intended for human consumption. Bottled water does not include mineral water or any type of soft drink commonly known as sods water, which is made by adsorbing carbon dioxide in potable water" [21 CFR §103.35(a)]. Most State laws dealing with bottled water, as well as the Association of Food and Drug Officials' model bottled water regulation, include mineral water within their ambit. Unless the context dictates otherwise, this paper includes mineral water within the term "bottled water.''
NLEA Section 8 amends FDCA to permit the issuance and amendment of standards of identity, quality, and fill of container for food products other than dairy products and maple syrup by notice-and-comment rulemaking under FDCA Section 701(a).