Sales of organic produce in the U.S. have been growing by more than 20 percent annually for the past several years. The pace is even faster in the UK and Europe. Health and environmental concerns over Genetically Modified Organisms have nearly driven the technology under ground in Europe.
In the U.S. consumers and farm groups are calling for country of origin labeling on meat and produce to ensure its wholesomeness. It would seem the western world is awash in food safety worries. The concerns have even extended to a staple of western life – water. Potable water was once considered a near birthright for citizens of industrialized nations. Today water has become a market niche for entrepreneurs. But the market may well be driven by some faulty assumptions.
Despite perceptions that it may be healthier, a recent study found there is little difference between water from a bottle and municipal water from the tap.
The research, commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund, revealed bottled water may be no safer, or healthier, than tap water in many countries while selling for up to 1,000 times the price. According to the Fund, regulatory standards for U.S. municipal tap water are tougher than those applied to bottled water.
Randy Beavers, the Assistant General Manager of Des Moines, Iowa Water Works agrees.
Randy Beavers: "The problem with bottled water is that they're not regulated by the same EPA that we do. They're regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and so they don't have the same testing requirements that our municipal water has. So that's true. We know that there's some bottled water companies here in Des Moines that take our product, filter it through carbon filters and sell it in the stores."
The International Bottled Water Association claims its standards are "at least as protective," as those for tap water and the trade group says the World Wildlife Fund's criticism is "misguided."
Nevertheless, with annual sales of more than 20 billion dollars, bottled water is the fastest growing beverage industry in the world.