Sunday, September 27, 2020

Is bottled water really the best choice?

Bottled water is one of the most vibrant sectors in food and drink, with consumers feeling more reassured than ever that the array of the products offered by manufacturers are way safer than tap water.

Today, there are literally dozens of brands and offerings available to consumers worldwide, and it is becoming trendy by the day to conform to bottled water than to tap water.

Even though tap water is cheaper and has obviously passed strict countries’, federal and local guidelines for cleanliness and quality, people still prefer bottled water as they assume it be cleaner.

Although Botswana is relatively a small population compared to the United States where bottled water sales have tripled in the last decade, some people here have succumbed to preferring bottled water over tap water under the same pretext that it is cleaner.

Most brands available in Botswana are South African, with only a few being Botswana brands. Chain stores like Choppies and Spar also have their bottled water brands on shelves.

Local Kwaito artist Vee also launched his own water brand, Maveeta, in 2008.
These bottles of water are seemingly everywhere, in restaurants, offered during flights, in stores and in offices. Other than being clean, others vouch for bottled water because it is tastier than tap water.

If not all, most of the labeling on the bottles states that the water is drawn from underground springs or wells. But has anyone ever noticed how misleading, if not deceptive, labels can be?
Some American brands have lately been found to be packaging purified tap water, labeling it as spring water and selling it, obviously at a higher price you would normally not pay the water utilities per day.

Even if you were to keep count of the money you use per week for the bottles of water and what you pay at month end for the tap water you use to wash the dishes, do the laundry, bath, cook and drink, you would realize that bottled water is a waste.

Imagine if the labeling on bottled water can deceive you by stating it is spring or underground water, what about the cleanliness and how safe it is for consumption.

Cain Chiepe, a resident of Gaborone says that he prefers tap water because unlike bottled water, tap water has a natural taste. “Bottled water tastes like it’s been messed AROUND with,” he said.

He said that he does not trust the labeling on the bottles. “It’s all crap to get us to buy, just like the ‘reviews’ put on the back-page of a novel saying how good it is; it’s just to get me to read or in this case buy and drink the water.”

On being asked on what he thought of people preferring bottled water over tap water, Chiepe said that he does not think anyone is wrong in their choice of consumption. He said anyone is at free will to either buy bottled water or drink tap water.

“We are all entitled to eat and drink what we want. If they feel bottled water is safer than tap water, let them drink it.”

Ikanyeng Segonetso, however, prefers bottled water to tap water because according to him, “Bottled water is safe from bacteria, contaminations and other water borne malicious infections since it has been purified to get rid of them.”

He also, however, admitted that he does not know the process of purifying the bottled water and said he based his premise on “theory and analogies”. He also firmly suggested he had no confidence in tap water because it is generally believed to be contaminated.
“The water passes through some underground pipes, which could leak at some unknown points, thereby absorbing some dirt passing it on the supply! If the dirt contains some bacteria, it would multiply along the flow in the pipes!” he cautioned.

Segonetso also said that he believes that perhaps the contents of the containers have been approved by the consumer products organ of the government. He also expressed that he would advise people to switch to bottled water, or use filters at their homes if they cannot afford to buy bottled water, adding that companies and manufactures who incorporate quality assurance in their manufacturing and marketing strategies are the ones he would vouch for the water, leaving options to sue any company which would mislead him with information that is detrimental to his health.

Reports conducted on bottled water have shown that bottled water is less regulated than tap water, according to a U.S. Congressional report released recently. While municipal water utilities are required to provide public reports of test results, bottled-water makers are not.

The research is also backed by a second report from the Environmental Working Group. The nonprofit advocacy organization surveyed the labels and Web sites of nearly 200 popular bottled-water brands and found that less than 2 percent disclosed three important facts that can affect safety: the water’s source, purification methods, and chemical pollutants in each bottle.

Although there are currently no researches in Botswana or Africa on the safety of bottled water, it is also obvious that the labelling does not differ as to what is in the water or what was used to purify it.
Who regulates the bottled water people consume in Botswana anyways? Food for thought.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.