“Bottled water bottles do not contain BPA and therefore cannot leach BPA into the water they contain. On the contrary, bottled water bottles are made from PET, a food-grade plastic that is biologically inert if ingested, is safe during handling, and is not a hazard if inhaled. As importantly, they can be reused and recycled.”
This is the message from Charlotte Metcalf, the Executive Director of the South African National Bottled Water Association in response to consumer queries received after a newspaper article asked ‘Is my bottled water bottle killing me?’
“The answer is a simple NO,” Metcalf said. “In South Africa, bottled water is legislated as a food product, and must be packaged in PET (or PETE) bottles if packaged in plastic as opposed to glass. PET – polyethylene terephthalate – is approved as safe for food and beverage contact by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States and similar regulatory agencies throughout the world, and has been for over 33 years.
“According to the International Life Sciences Institute Report ‘Packaging Materials 1. Polyethylene Terephthalate PET for Food Packaging Applications’ published in 2000, PET is biologically inert if ingested, is safe during handling, and is not a hazard if inhaled.”
According to one of Coca-Cola Africa’s technical specialists, Dr Casper Durandt, the bottled water industry unfairly shoulders the brunt of unsubstantiated claims.
Durandt advised concerned consumers to:
1. Look for the SANBWA seal – this guarantees membership of SANBWA and adherence to its strict health & safety regulations, including bottling in PET.
2. Look for the plastic resin code3 in the ‘recycle triangle’ that must, by law, be printed or embossed into the container. Those numbered 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 are most often used for food and beverage packaging in South Africa; 1, 2, 4, 5 and 7 most highly rated as ‘safe’ by the FDA.
3. Recycle all your plastic.
Metcalf’s assertions were also confirmed by Chandru Wadhwani, Joint Managing Director of Extrupet, a leading recycler of PET in Johannesburg.
“There are numerous urban myths around bottled water bottles, myths which have been thoroughly debunked by many credible scientific sources in recent years. The most common is the idea that plastic water bottles can leach chemicals – such as Bisphenol A abbreviated to BPA, dioxin, and DEHA – into the water,” Chandru said.
“The truth is that BPA is not used to make PET, nor is it used to make any of the component materials used to make PET. There is also no dioxin1 in PET nor is DEHA2 not present in PET either as a raw material or as a decomposition product, DOA.”
“The predominant use of PET and HDPE polymers are in primary food packaging3, and are produced solely in South Africa by Safripol, which also produces PP locally,” added Safripol’s Technology & Innovation Executive, Gert Claasen.
“The safety of our polymers is extremely important for us and our customers, and therefore the Safripol product range complies to all the safety and food regulations which are regulated by the European Commission, REACH, as well as the FDA in the United States of America. These regulations are updated constantly, and we ensure that our products immediately comply when they are,” he said.
Claasen highlighted the most relevant regulations4:
• REACH Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 and Substances of Very High Concern
• The U.S. Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act as amended under Regulation 21 CFR of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA] (1.4.2011).
• EU Commission Regulation (EU) No 10/2011 (14.1.2011) on plastic materials and articles intended to come into contact with food, ANNEX1, Table 1, up to and including Commission Regulation (EU) 2019/37. (The EU Commission Directive 2002/72/EC and its amendments, EU-Directives 2004/1/EC, 2004/19/EC, 2005/79/EC, 2007/19EC, 2008/39/EC and EU Commission Regulation (EC) No 975/2009 and 2011/8/EU Commission Directive are repealed).
Metcalf added: “Importantly, bottled water bottles – regardless of volume, can be reused if you take steps to prevent the growth of bacteria. These bacteria thrive in warm, moist environments; that is, in virtually any beverage container under the right conditions. Wash all your containers, not just PET bottles, with hot soapy water and dry thoroughly between each use.”
1. Dioxin, a chlorine-containing chemical that has no role or presence in the chemistry of PET, is formed by volcanoes and combustion in incinerators at temperatures above 1700 degrees Fahrenheit or 927 degrees Celcius.
2. DEHA is not classified as a human carcinogen and is not considered to pose any significant health risk to humans. DOA (a decomposition product), can be found in water – bottled or tap water – and is then called DOA. DOA is one of the organic containments commonly found at trace levels in just about all drinking water. It is also sometimes – wrongly – interpreted as di-ethyl hydroxyl amine which is not found in PET or in the production of PET bottles.
3. https://www.custom-pak.com/what-plastics-are-approved-for-food-contact-applications/ provides the FDA list of food grade resins.
4. Addition information from Safripol:
With reference to Article 11, item 3 of Commission Regulation (EU) No 10/2011: No substances, which are subject to a restriction in food based on Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 (16.12.2008) and subsequent amendments up to and including Commission Regulation (EU) 2018/1497, are present in the Safripol product..
Further, with reference to Article 3 of Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004 concerning the generic product safety requirements of materials and articles intended to come into contact with foodstuffs, our resin is manufactured in accordance with good manufacturing practice as outlined in Commission Regulation (EC) No 2023/2006.
This resin, when used unmodified as supplied by Safripol, is of a suitable purity for articles intended for use in contact with foodstuffs. However, good manufacturing practice needs to be applied during processing of the polymer, including adherence to the maximum recommended processing temperatures.
All monomers and additives used in the manufacturing of this resin are listed in Commission Regulation (EU) No 10/2011 and/or are allowed for use in food contact articles under the relevant national food-contact regulations applicable to many countries in Europe.