Why are there expiration dates on bottled water?

The Food and Drug Administration regulates bottled water using the same method as it does for Raisin Bran and frozen chicken tenders as all of these are consumable food products. On the labels of any food or beverage item we see the calorie content, the ingredients, the distributor, along with other information that we casually skim over before consumption. Under the bureaucracy, all consumable products are also subject to the same expiration date labeling laws. This makes sense for crackers that can go stale, or meat that will spoil, but what about for water? In 1987, New Jersey required that all food products be labeled with an expiration date, and because of the inconvenience to the distributors, the rest of the country followed their lead. This mandate later transformed in 2004 so that when it comes to water bottles only, the product needs to be marked with the date produced.

Water itself does not spoil, however the plastic bottles themselves will degrade over time, leaching chemicals into the water making it unsafe to drink. Bottled water specifically has its own regulatory standards set under the Current Good Manufacturing Practices which focus on quality assurance quality control of bottling conditions and the protection of the water from contaminants. Bottled water can be subject to contamination at the initial extraction process from a contaminated water reservoir and through the processing, bottling, and transportation procedures. Typical single serving water bottles are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) which is surprisingly slightly porous. This permeable plastic membrane can actually transfer odors from the outside environment into the water – hence, be mindful where you store your 24-pack. One should also be mindful that a plastic taste does not indicate contaminated water, nor does an odorless water ensure the bottle is safe to drink from. Still, the FDA considers bottled water to have an indefinite shelf life as long as the bottles are properly stored. But as recommended by the distributors and environmental groups, if you’re going to go out of your way to buy bottled water, enjoy it within two weeks of purchasing.

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