Does Bottled Water Expire? NJ Was the Only State that Thought So
Amid the continued lead in tap water crisis in Newark, new attention has been drawn to an old only-in-New Jersey law regarding whether bottled water expires.
On Monday, bottled water being handed out to affected Newark residents was halted briefly when it was discovered the plastic water bottles being distributed were stamped with “best used by May 2019."
State officials have since said the water is safe.
In 1987, New Jersey became the only U.S. state to require expiration dates stamped on bottled water sold in stores.
As a result, bottling companies began stamping all bottles of water with the expiration dates no matter where they were sold.
Almost two decades later, state legislators introduced a measure that ultimately passed in 2006 to eliminate the requirement that bottled water be labeled with a two-year expiration date. The move brought the state back in line with federal Food and Drug Administration regulations.
But bottling companies never stopped stamping the best-by dates.
The FDA considers bottled water to have an indefinite shelf life if it is produced in accordance with the administration's "Current Good Manufacturing Practice" and is stored in an unopened, properly sealed container.
The amended New Jersey law also removed a state requirement that water could not be sold more than two years after the date it was bottled.
While reviewing the proposed changes, state lawmakers noted that long-term storage of bottled water may result in aesthetic defects, such as off-odor and taste, so bottlers still "may voluntarily put expiration dates on their labels."
The idea of expiration dates on bottled water is more an issue of the packaging, for some, than it is of the water itself.
There is conflicting information on whether the plastic can eventually leach chemicals into the beverage.
Part of the debate includes at what temperature the bottled water is stored, as scientists have studied whether higher temperatures could accelerate the leaching process.
The bottled water industry disputes any such suggestions, saying PET plastic bottles have been FDA approved as safe for food and beverage contact for over 30 years.