Bottled water is defined as a food. So, the Department of Health is responsible for regulating and monitoring the bottled water industry.
SANBWA, the bottled water industry’s representative body imposes on its members the industry’s most exhaustive battery of tests and measurements, based on enhancements of the European industry’s standards.
SANBWA’s required tests and measurements cover all aspects of bottling water- from the source, through the bottling process to the retail shelf.
The source of natural water is seen as including both the aquifer ( the body of water contained by the underground rock formation) and the point of extraction- which could be a spring, a borehole or a well.
Water in the aquifer is recharged by rain, melted snow or hail in the aquifer’s catchment area. In South Africa, a catchment area is usually the valley or high ground above the extraction point. An ideal catchment area would be a nature reserve or indigenous bush. Otherwise, catchment areas must at least be free of houses, roads, railway lines, waste disposal facilities, fuel storage, cattle feed lots of other concentrated livestock activities, and farming activities that include the use of pesticides and fertilizers.
During the membership application process, SANBWA requires a detailed hydrogeological report by professional hydrogeologists. This report not only certifies that a source is not polluted or contaminated but that it can produce water on a sustainable basis.
Because an aquifer’s flow will vary between the rainy and dry seasons, it is measured on a monthly basis over a prolonged period of time.
SANBWA members must also provide certificates ensuring that the extraction point, which includes an area of up to 20 meters around the borehole, spring or well, is securely fenced and locked, that the building housing the borehole or spring is proof against insect and animal intrusion, the spring or borehole is sealed with airtight fittings, storm water runs away from the extraction point, and that the borehole is surrounded by an impermeable slab that won’t allow spilled water to seep back into the borehole.
The hydrogeologist’s report must also include a certificate of analysis for the microbiological and chemical composition of the source water, matched against world-class criteria set by
SANBWA members must be able to prove that at source and thereafter, up to and including the point of sale, their water is free of parasites and pathogenic (illness causing) micro-organisms.
SANBWA’s comprehensive annual audit of a member bottling plant will also measure the member’s compliance with world class hygiene and safety requirements in areas such as worker clothing, canteens, plant ventilation, routine plant cleaning activities, internal and external maintenance of buildings, rubbish disposal, packaging and labelling.
Members found to be deficient in any area of inspection are given assistance and specific timeframes for correcting the deficiency. Any member that ignores compliance requirements is expelled from the association and disbarred from using its logo. In cases where a member’s continued non-compliance may affect the health of consumers, SANBWA institutes legal proceedings.