The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

"Have You Ever Seen a Commie Drink a Glass of Water?"

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Jul 28, 2007 3:40PM

2007_07_strangelove.jpgHad a good chuckle this morning reading the Sun-Times. Smack dab in the middle of page 3 was this AP article detailing PepsiCo's announcement that their popular Aquafina bottled water - the most popular bottled water brand in the nation - will literally spell out on the label that the water contained within is filtered from a public source, rather than the somewhat cryptic "p.w.s." that's currently on the label. Show of hands if you didn't know that.

The change comes after pressure from a watchdog group called Corporate Accountability International, which has long been lobbying for full disclosure from PepsiCo, the Coca-Cola Bottling Company (makers of Dasani brand bottled water) and Nestle Waters North America for their Pure Life brands. The Dasani website clearly states their publicly sourced water undergoes a process called "reverse osmosis" to remove impurities and later fortified with minerals, while Nestle Pure Life vacillates between natural and public sources. CAI seeks to have Coca-Cola follow Pepsi's lead and label their brands as publicly sourced. Nestle announced yesterday that they're in the process of printing labels for Pure Life indicating whether the product came from a natural or public source.

The main issue here, we think, isn't corporate accountability. Although it certainly is an issue; corporations have long only told consumers the truths they feel the public need to know. What we see here is the ease of consumer gullibility: the belief that if the water is bottled, it has to be good for you. It's a theory that's long been debunked by groups ranging from CAI to Penn & Teller. It also raises the double standard to which we sometimes hold our municipal governments, i.e. we're quick to think that publicly sourced brands like Aquafina are better for us than what comes from our taps.

Bottled water is a serious industry, to the tune of $10.8 billion in wholesale sales in 2006. The growth of the industry has exploded amid raised awareness of health concerns related to drinking colas and other soft drinks. The increase in revenue also raises other environmental concerns, like the increase in plastic waste from empty bottles, which are produced using petroleum, thereby contributing to skyrocketing oil prices. We can't keep track of the number of times we've debated with people who thought that Aquafina was natural bottled water because the label depicted mountains. Some just couldn't believe that a company would do something as filter publicly sourced water and sell it. We believe in personal choice in most cases, so if you want to spend a few dollars on a case of bottled water, one has that right. We'll prefer to save that money filling up our camelbacks with tap water.