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How do you like your water?

Remember the days when water used to be a simple drink that came from a tap? That, of course, is still an option, but today there is a plethora of bottled water products to choose from. In Canada, all bottled water (domestic and imported) is regulated as a food product by both Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. It must therefore comply with the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations. All bottled water must carry the following basic labeling information: common name, net quantity, name and address of the company, list of ingredients if it contains more than one, nutritional information and fluoride ion content. As for types there are numerous, and are based on either the source of the water or how they’ve been processed.

Let’s start with the ever-popular spring water and mineral water. By definition, both are water derived from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the surface of the earth. To qualify, they must be collected strictly at the source, often through a borehole that taps the underground formation. Mineral water usually contains a larger amount of dissolved mineral salts. Both are not subject to any treatment that would modify their original composition. These two must contain the additional label information: dissolved mineral salt content, statement indicating whether ozone or fluoride has been added and the geographic location of the underground source of water.

All other types of bottled water must include a description of any treatment the water has undergone. Purified water is a type of drinking water that has been treated with a process such as distillation, deionization or reverse osmosis. This simply means that bacteria and dissolved solids have been removed from the water by some process, purifying it. Sometimes just called purified drinking water, it can also be labeled according to the process used such as distilled water or reverse osmosis drinking water.

Sparkling bottled water can be spring or mineral and contains the carbonation it possessed naturally when it emerged from the source. This does not include soda water or seltzer.

Flavoured water is becoming very popular among folks who want to increase their water intake but really don’t like the taste. They are often sweetened with artificial sweetener to keep the calories down. They can be both still and sparkling.

Other water types that exist, and not necessarily bottled, are artesian, well water and, of course, tap. Artesian water comes from a well that taps a confined aquifer, a water-bearing underground layer of rock or sand in which the water level is above the top of the aquifer. Well water is exactly what it sounds like, water from a hole made in the ground that taps the water source. Municipal or tap water in Canada is regulated by the province, territory and Health Canada and is generally of excellent quality.

One of the biggest questions most people have about bottled water here in Canada is whether it is safer than tap water. Believe it or not, quality standards for bottled water and tap water are similar, but many folks prefer the taste and convenience of bottled water. Both must meet or exceed their required health and safety standards. Of course, if in a third world country or remote region where the tap water is questionable or not available, it is definitely safer to drink bottled water.

As for storage of bottled water, it should be kept in a clean, cool dry environment out of direct sunlight. To ensure the safe use of bottled water, do not refill old bottles, do not share bottles and clean the bottle top or cap before drinking or pouring from them. It’s also a good idea to keep opened bottles refrigerated as the water, cap and cap liner can all support bacterial growth that may come from the mouth or environment.

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