Why Companies Add Salt to Bottled Water

Drinking water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—which is responsible for public drinking water (tap water)—and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—which regulates bottled water

The Food and Drug Administration requires that companies list the ingredients of food and beverages on their product labels. Since fourth or fifth-grade science taught you that hydrogen and oxygen make up water, you might think that either H2O or just water would be stated under “ingredients” on bottled water labels. Oddly enough, most bottled water companies also list salt as an ingredient. Since you are paying for water, why exactly are such other ingredients included?

Bottled Water

Drinking water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—which is responsible for public drinking water (tap water)—and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—which regulates bottled water. Specific Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs) have been established by the FDA to ensure the safety of bottled water. These guidelines require companies that produce bottled drinking water to:

  • Process, bottle, store, and transport water in sanitary conditions
  • Protect water sources from contaminants, including bacteria, chemicals, and others
  • Ensure water is safe and free from contaminants through approved quality control processes
  • Test samples—source water and final products—for contaminants

What Is Bottled Water?

Labeling rules established by the Food and Drug Administration define bottled water as:

  • Artesian water
  • Deionized water
  • Demineralized water
  • Distilled water
  • Drinking water
  • Mineral water
  • Purified water
  • Reverse osmosis water
  • Sparkling bottled water
  • Spring water

Other beverages—including club soda, tonic water, and seltzer—also are regulated by the FDA—as soft drinks. Flavored water and nutrient-added drinks, which contain vitamins, electrolytes, and/or amino acids must also meet bottled water requirements if the term “water” is included in the name of the product. Flavourings and nutrients added to these beverages must be listed on the ingredients list and must meet FDA safety standards.

Bottled Water Inspection

The FDA inspects bottled water and water processing plants as part of the agency’s food safety programs. Inspections help ensure companies that produce bottled water follow all regulations regarding source water, operational water, and final products. Washing and sanitizing procedures are inspected and bottling operations are monitored regularly to make sure bottled water is safe.

Healthy Water

Our sister publication, Diabetes Focus (Fall 2015), reported that substituting a glass of water for just one soft drink per day can cut your risk of type 2 diabetes by 14 to 25 percent, according to a study of more than 25,000 adults in the UK. Add some flavor to your water with a slice of lemon or a sprig of mint.


Last year, Time Magazine published an article that advised its readers to drink tap water over bottled water. Companies add salt to bottled water for flavor just as some additional sugar. Time examined the interesting variations in bottled water labels. Who would have thought that drinking bottled water could possibly interfere with your diet plan? However, if the label includes the number of calories per bottle, then sugar has been added.

Studies have shown that most people prefer the taste of salty water to sweet, which is why many companies have chosen to add salt. The Dasani Company and Smartwater defend their salt additives—both claim that the amounts added to water are minimal. However, this inclusion can make it even more challenging to keep track of add salt intake for health purposes.

Forced dehydration

Think about it—salt intake makes you thirsty. If salt increases thirst, then increased thirst leads to a larger intake of water, which then leads to an increase in sales. Perhaps companies are correct in stating that the amount of salt additives remains minimal. However, extra salt makes humans thirstier. When your body has consumed an excess of sodium, your kidneys work harder to get rid of this excess. Dehydration is a symptom of this kidney function in action.

Water helps to flush out excess add salt, but if you keep drinking the water that made you thirsty in the first place, you enter a strange cycle of thirst.

Why humans don’t drink from the ocean

The National Ocean Service claims that drinking seawater (i.e. saltwater) can be deadly. As mentioned above, kidney function is somewhat limited. The Service states that “human kidneys can only make urine that is less salty than saltwater.” People die of dehydration from sodium bicarbonate in water because they can no longer urinate properly.

Since many people are landlocked, water survival tips are not of the utmost importance. However, the human body functions the same way for someone living in Kansas as it does for someone living in California—too much salt remains unhealthy for the body, causing dehydration that makes you crave water.

Source of daily minerals

The salt additive in bottled water is actually baking soda—sodium bicarbonate in water. This differs from sodium chloride, i.e. table salt. Take a look at your bottled water labels to determine the type of sodium your body is ingesting, as sodium intake is not necessarily a bad thing. Your body needs the salt mineral in order to function.

The Canadian Liver Foundation recommends consuming 1500-2300mg of sodium per day. sodium bicarbonate in water is, therefore, not all bad. Simply try to determine the amount of sodium ingested per bottle and determine whether a better flavor is worth the price.

Bottled water companies who don’t add salt

There are many successful bottled water companies that do not use salt additives, so it’s possible to avoid drinking water that contains salt. Most bottled water begins from tap water sifted through conditioning filters, and it is after this step that companies decide whether to add salt. Why not just put your glass under the faucet or pour water from a Brita filter and decide whether or not to add a small pinch of salt? This could save you from spending $2 per bottle on something that’s part of a $16 billion per year industry.

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