Can Water Expire or Go Bad?
Summer is full on. With temperatures soaring daily hydration is even more important. What’s your go-to method to maintain your water intake? Do you pour from the tap or grab a bottled water? I’m a tap water girl, for the most part but recently…
I hosted a casual party where I filled an ice bucket with chilled bottled water for guests to grab. It’s an easy way to offer a non-alcoholic option, in addition to wine and cocktails. During the event, I noticed all of the water bottles were stamped with an expiration date. It made me wonder… does water expire? Can H2O spoil? Does it become a health detriment instead of a health benefit… beyond a certain date? Post party I decided to research my questions and share what I learned with you.
Why Does Bottled Water have an Expiration Date?
Certain products are perishable like meat, dairy and bread. They can spoil and become dangerous if ingested. When this happens the texture, odor, mold or discoloration makes it distasteful… literally! In a worse case scenario it can cause food poisoning. See my post on food safety and preventing food borne illness HERE.
But, shouldn’t water be good indefinitely? Then, why is there a stamped use-by-date? Should you get rid of it after that?
In 1987, New Jersey required all food products sold in the state to bear an expiration date of no less than two years from date of manufacture. Instead of culling out the NJ cases, it was more efficient for national bottlers to give containers, going anywhere, a shelf life of two years. It had little to do with the safety of the H2O. Eventually, NJ updated its packaging laws but the tradition of putting expiration dates on non-perishable water persists.
Is Old Bottled Water Safe to Drink? Should You Throw Out Expired Bottled Water?
The tastiness and safety of old, sealed water depends on how it’s been stored and where. And whether it’s been stored in steel, glass or plastic. A sealed plastic container can allow the taste and smell of water to be tainted over time. The porous molecular structure of plastic allows odors and fumes from air in your pantry or refrigerator to leach into the fluid, altering the taste and/or smell.
Storing cases of plastic bottled water for years may make for interesting flavors and smells that sneak in from the items they’re stored next to. Think chocolate chip cookies vs. cat litter vs. paint. Or, worse, think household cleaners. Don’t store plastic containers of food products near anything you wouldn’t eat. Better yet, store them in separate areas of your home.
Glass isn’t porous like plastic. It prevents those outside molecules from drifting into liquids. Pouring water into food grade stainless steel containers works much the same as glass.
Store water, and all food and drink items, in a cool environment instead of a hot attic or storeroom to maintain optimum freshness.
Is Water Bottled in Plastic Safe?
Worries about substances in plastics have risen in recent years. Most water is packaged in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles. High-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic is used for larger water jugs similar to gallons of milk. PET, or PETE, plastic containers are ruled as safe for packaging human ingestible products. In addition to drinks, grocery aisles display thousands of edible items in clear plastic containers such as salad dressing, catsup, peanut butter and nuts - all packaged in PET.
Recently, BPA, bisphenol-a, also used in plastic containers, got a bad rap for mimicking estrogen like qualities. Further reading, on the subject, can be found at www.foodsafetymagazine.com. Despite similarities in spelling there is no BPA, or phthalates, in bottles made of PET or HDPE.
Plastic is ubiquitous. Take a look around any grocery or home improvement store, it’s everywhere. No one can argue against its detrimental environmental impact. But it’s SO convenient. It’s portable and your pool won’t allow glass - so you buy plastic bottles. For manufacturers it’s less expensive to produce and ship - thus a better profit margin and you spend less. And it’s efficient and lightweight - easier for your to carry home from the store. It won’t shatter when your children drop it and risk injury. But in the long view, liquids in glass or steel, food certified for potability, will stay fresher, healthier and better tasting for longer.
So Many Choices, Which Brands of Bottled Water are Healthiest?
Mineral, artesian, purified, sparkling, spring and now smart and alkaline waters. A dizzying amount of new products has hit the water market. The FDA has specific guidelines for labeling and handling of each type of water so read labels carefully.
It seems like mineral water would be a healthy proposition. Hydration plus a mineral supplement. Sounds like a no brainer, but is it?
Most mineral-packed waters are imported. They’re bottled from springs naturally high in minerals - fresh from inside the earth. Mineral rich springs are found throughout Europe, less so in the U.S.A.
Mineral waters come in sparkling or still - as in bubbly or not. Natural carbonation, as CO2, can bubble up from the ground - like a more refined swamp gas. Or, bubbles can be forced into the water during the bottling process. Unlike champagne which gets its bubbles from fermentation.
Examples of earth sourced carbonated water are San Pellegrino and Perrier. Perrier, for one, isn’t sent to your grocer naturally fizzing…but it could be. To maintain safety, Perrier, now owned by Nestle, pulls the water and the CO2 gas from the Vergeze spring in southern France - separately. The water is further purified and then the gas is put back into the water - at the exact carbonation level as it occurs naturally. And just as Dr. Louis Perrier first bottled it from the spring, in 1898, located in the former Roman bath, turned spa, he owned.
Popular Mineral Water Brands with High Mineral Content
If your tap water isn’t robust with minerals should you add bottled mineral water to your daily hydration quotient? There are numerous choices and brands of waters.
The amount of minerals in your tap water varies by where you live. But what about the contents of those pricey, bottled mineral waters?
How does the mineral content add up in some of the imported brands? Here’s a brief overview of some of the more popular mineral waters.
Perrier (France) contains 170 mg (17% DV) of calcium per liter. While San Pellegrino (Italy) has 200 mg (20% DV) and Gerolsteiner (Germany) packs a whopping 348 mg (35% DV) per liter.
The winner here is Appollinaris (Germany) owned by Coco-Cola. It contains 130 mg (33% DV, your daily value) of magnesium per liter. It also contains 100 mg (10%) of calcium. German water, Gerolsteiner, has 108 mg (27%) of magnesium along with its hefty dose of calcium.
The heavy hitter here is Vichy (France) with 1110 mg (46% DV). The salty taste may appeal to some but for most people getting 46% of your daily sodium intake from a liter of water is a double edged sword. Yes, you’re bathing your body in healthy hydration. But, with the high amount of sodium already present in the average diet you could be putting a strain on your kidneys and cardio-vascular health by adding a high sodium water. Other popular European waters tend to contain less than 410 mg (17% DV). Perrier (France) has 12 mg (less than 1% DV) and San Pellegrino (Italy) has 36 mg (2% DV).
Popular mineral waters contain negligible amounts of potassium, usually no more than 1% of your daily volume, like Vichy (France) with 48 mg. Most have 20 mg or less than 1% DV.
Are Mineral Waters Good for Health?
The required intake of calcium differs by age and gender. From adolescence to adulthood, the recommended daily intake for healthy bones can range from 1000 mg to 1,200 mg. The amount of magnesium needed by adults is 310 - 420 mg. Magnesium has been shown to assist in preventing ischemic heart disease, cardiac arrhythmias, and migraine headaches. But is water the most efficient way to get your minerals?
Other than promise of pristine, beautiful locales - Fiji, Tuscany, Switzerland, Provence, Iceland… is bottled mineral water hype or bottled health?
Sure, you can get a nice dose of calcium, magnesium and potassium from a liter of mineral water. But you won’t get fiber and you won’t feel full for long drinking your minerals vs. eating them. By eating food that contains needed nutrients you may get more bang for your bite… rather than sip.
Foods can give you big doses of calcium, magnesium and other minerals. But they also give you healthy amounts of other nutrients, vitamins, fiber and minerals. Mineral waters provide important hydration and are a healthy way to obtain needed minerals. But eating calcium rich foods also brings needed doses of vitamin K, not available in your specialty water.
Foods high in calcium tend to have beneficial doses of vitamin K as well - also essential for a strong skeleton. Many vitamin K rich foods also contain needed magnesium.
Smart food has more goodies than smart water.
Also essential for keeping bones dense and strong, is vitamin D (actually more of a hormone, rather than a vitamin). The best source of D is the sun. Our bodies easily manufacture the hormone when our skin is in direct sunlight for 10 - 15 minutes, depending on the darkness of your skin, age and how close you live to the equator. It can be difficult to get your daily dose of D since we lather on sunscreen and layer on clothes to prevent sun exposure. Since it can be challenging to get a good dose of D from the sun we must rely on food, not mineral water, to get this need met. You can get your D from fatty fish, such as tuna and salmon, fortified milk and other dairy products, and eggs.
And don’t forget about getting necessary magnesium. Sources of edible, as opposed to drinkable, magnesium are leafy greens such as spinach, kale, romaine lettuce as well as broccoli, liver and some cheeses.
Is Your Tap Water Safe for Drinking?
What keeps your tap water safe to drink? In a word, chlorine. Its present in both tap and most bottled water. Public water systems use different filtration and treatment systems to get rid of microorganisms and render your tap water safe for imbibing. Most use a form of chlorine to get it from the water plant to your pipes for safe use at home. Bottlers add tiny amounts of chlorine to packaged water to get it safely from their warehouse to your grocer.
This small amount of chlorine is safe but only works for a short period of time. This prevention is overcome when you open the bottle and start to drink directly from the container. You introduce harmless bacteria and other bugs from your mouth and saliva into the water. Algae, molds and bacteria can then begin to grow in the container.
Dirty glasses, especially those that’ve contained easily spoiled fluids, like dairy, have a greater chance of serving as a petri dish for growing microbes that can cause food borne illnesses, i.e. food poisoning. Learn more about cooking and keeping food safe HERE. Read what Dr. Kellogg Schwab, director of the Johns Hopkins University Water Institute had to say on the subject in 2014.
Our bodies are marvelous at protecting us from the myriad of chemicals and microbes surrounding us. But, a safe rule of thumb is to keep water no longer than two weeks after a bottle has been opened, especially if drunk from. And the cooler the bottles are kept the better. The growth of these opportunistic bugs blasts off in warm environments. See my post on food safety HERE.
Which is Healthier - Tap or Bottled Water?
We tend to think of tap water as plain, no nothing water clean enough for drinking, cooking and bathing. But there are varying amounts of minerals coming out of your faucet, depending on where you live. They’re the very same minerals that are in the pricey bottled water from Europe.
We say we have hard or soft tap water which describes the mineral content of the water. With hard water, faucets and shower stalls acquire a white crust unless cleaned assiduously. Soap forms a scum and is difficult to rinse from hair and clothes without water softeners. Our appliances get clogged and skin can be irritated..
We despise what it does to our pipes, hair and fixtures. But the problematic minerals in your shower are the very ones that can benefit your health, depending on amount present and how much you drink.
Calcium deposits in your bathtub - yuck! Calcium for bone health - yeah!
The mineral content of local tap water varies across regions. In an article in 2001 on a Comparison of the Mineral Content of Tap Water and Bottled Waters researchers found that tap water in many areas of equalled to that of bottled mineral water. Some of these were Indianapolis, IN, Los Angeles, CA and San Diego, CA. Check your area’s water on a regular basis. You could be getting your daily intake of minerals straight from your faucet. Another article in Scientific American noted that 10 - 15% of daily calcium and a third of daily magnesium can be obtained by drinking two liters of tap water a day in some cities.
How Safe is Tap Water?
How Safe is an Open Glass of Water?
Freshly poured water in a clean glass will last, safely, for a day or two. It will hydrate your body beautifully. But will it taste as good? Perhaps not.
Drinking from an open glass of water, that sat out for a couple of day on your bedside table, won’t harm you. But it may not taste as good as your previous sipping experience. Never fear. It’s not germs, or microorganisms, causing the off-taste. Carbon dioxide (CO2), in our air, slips into the water and changes its pH which changes its taste. H2O + CO2 = a different but not harmful change.
Is Your Tap Water Safe to Drink?
I’ve finally managed to increase my water intake. It’s a miracle. I’ve zeroed my long standing Coke Zero consumption from two or three a day to one or two a week, at most. I realized it was the icy coolness that I craved. Simply by keeping a double walled steel vessel of ice and cold water within reach I was able to break my habit in no time. Plus I’m doing my tiny part of not adding more plastic to landfills.
My town has a good public water system and my home doesn’t have ancient leaded pipes so I assume my tap water is healthy. It looks clear and has no obvious odor or unusual taste. It’s a good idea to know if your local water meets high safety standards and the levels of minerals and substances it contains. Check your local water report on a frequent basis. Occasionally, local boil advisories are issued to the public if there has been a breach in a local water system. If health authorities suspect pathogens have entered the water system citizens will be told to boil water at a rolling boil for one full minute then cool for safe ingestion. Boil advisories can last for 24 to 48 hours or longer in a public emergency situation.
The EPA imposes strict regulations on water treatment through the Safe Drinking Water Act. You can read about drinking water standards at the EPA site.
Summary: LIVING BETTER Tips for Health and Hydration
Don’t store plastic containers of water, or any food products in plastic near any items not safe to eat, especially household cleaners and toxic chemicals. Plastic is porous. Substances in the nearby environment can leach into plastic over time.
Store water, and all food and drink items, in a cool area rather than hot attics or storerooms to maintain optimum freshness and safety.
Liquids are best stored in glass or food grade steel to maintain freshness, safety and better taste.
An open glass of water in a clean glass will last, safely, for a day or two. It may not taste as fresh but its still safe to drink.
The same minerals found in bottled water is found in tap water. The amount of minerals in tap water varies by region.
Certain bottled mineral waters contain substantial doses of calcium, magnesium and potassium per liter. Read the label for percentage of recommended daily requirement.
Keep water no longer than two weeks after a bottle has been used. Drinking directly from a container introduces bacteria from your mouth and saliva into the water. Microorganisms can begin to grow in the container.
See my post on food safety HERE. Many of the health guidelines that apply to food are applicable to water
Know if your local water meets the EPA optimum safety standards and levels of minerals and substances it contains. Check your local water report on an annual basis. Watch for boil advisories in emergency situations.
How do you achieve up your daily hydration needs? What are your thoughts on the bottled water market? Share your tips and thoughts in the Comment Section below.
For more information:
Other recent posts
And please share on social media if you think this information could be helpful to others, thanks!