Are Bubbles Better?
Your Bottled Water
Around the world, bottled water has gone
mainstream. Americans spend billions annually on their
favorite brands of H20. A few years ago, there were
only a small number of choices for bottled water, but
consumers today find more than 3,600 brands in the marketplace.
The deteriorating taste and quality of tap water—and
the fear of the contaminants it may contain—have
made bottled water not just a choice for some people
but a necessity. Drinking more water also goes along
with the health-conscious craze today. The demand for
bottled water is so high that even Pepsi has come out
with Aquafina and Coca-Cola with Dasani to capture some
of the market.
Not All Water Is Created Equal
To make an informed choice about which of the various
types of bottled waters is for you, scrutinize the labels.
European bottled mineral waters come from springs, which
are simply underground water sources that flow naturally
to the surface. Waters labeled "spring water"
must come from a spring source. Federal labeling standards
in the United States, which came into force in the mid-1990s,
now require that bottlers disclose on the label where
the water originated. Purified water is a different
story—it’s usually produced by distillation,
de-ionization or reverse osmosis. This water can originate
from either the tap or from ground water. Often labeled
"purified" or drinking water," this processed
water often has minerals added to it to give it taste.
If the water is produced by vaporization and condensation,
it may be labeled "distilled water."
In Europe, bottlers
tout the reputed healthful properties of good water.
Almost every European bottled water is “bottled
at the source,” which means that it comes from
a spring where people have gone for hundreds of years
to “take the waters” in curative spa treatments.
Spas like Vittel and Contrexeville have medical programs
designed to address specific ailments. Some spa treatments involve consuming more than 80 ounces of water a day,
which is said to remove toxins from the body and to
be effective in the treatment of obesity. In Europe,
these bottled waters with their mineral contents listed
on the label are sold not only in supermarkets but also
in pharmacies. Doctors even prescribe certain mineral
waters for specific ailments.
In the United States, however, bottled water is marketed with an emphasis on its taste, contribution to fitness regimens and, in some cases, trendiness. The U.S.
Food and Drug Administration does not recognize any
therapeutic values of bottled water because the existing
medical research does not conform to FDA guidelines.
However, the therapeutic value of certain bottled waters
is becoming a subject of discussion in American scientific
and medical circles.
The taste of carbonated water is effected by its level
of carbonation—the more carbon-dioxide gas present,
the more acidic the water’s taste. This sensation,
sometimes described by tasters as “bracing,”
“sharp” and “spritzy,” can be
positive or negative, depending upon which minerals
are in the water. Certain minerals bind the carbonation
into the water. Seltzers tend to lose their carbonation
quickly because of the lack of minerals. In bottled-water
tastings, the more highly mineralized carbonated waters
have scored best.