Water bottlers lobby to get onto FDA's food pyramid

WASHINGTON: This month, the bottled-water industry is starting a multiyear campaign to have water added to the food pyramid, a list of recommended daily foods issued by the USDA.

WASHINGTON: This month, the bottled-water industry is starting a multiyear campaign to have water added to the food pyramid, a list of recommended daily foods issued by the USDA.

The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is working with Stratacomm on the project. Last year, the firm began work on a public education campaign that stressed bottled-water safety and the regulations bottled water complies with, said Stephen Kay, IBWA VP of communications. This month, it begins making its case to an advisory panel of the National Academy of Sciences, which recommends every five years what should be included in the USDA's food pyramid. "We believe that water should be on the food pyramid,

said Kay. The association is gathering scientific studies related to the need for hydration to bolster its case.

The first hearing on revisions to the pyramid is scheduled for April 30, Kay said. A revised pyramid will be issued in 2005; the last revision was in 2000.

Consultant Tom Pirko of Bevmark thinks the IBWA is in for a tough fight.

"Water isn't a food, and it's the food pyramid, after all,

he said. "Water has no nutritional value."

Still, Pirko admits that bottled water has captured the fancy of consumers in recent years. A recent report from New York-based consulting firm Beverage Marketing said US bottled-water sales rose 11.5% to almost $6.5 billion last year. US per capita consumption of bottled water rose from 9.3 gallons in 1991 to 20 gallons in 2001.

Bottlers have used PR to craft an image of purity and, in cases such as Perrier and Evian, upscale cachet.

"Bottled water has become a phenomenon,

said Pirko.

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