The trade group for bottled-water manufacturers—yes, one actually exists—boiled over after 20/20 aired a May 6 report charging that branded versions of the world’s most ubiquitous substance are a ripoff. “If you buy fancy brands because you think they taste better, you’re probably just buying the hype,” said correspondent John Stossel. He noted that some bottled waters cost $5 a gallon, more than gasoline.
The report has prompted the Alexandria, Va.-based International Bottled Water Association to fire off a four-page complaint, decrying the report as “inadequately researched and lopsided.”
On the show, Stossel—who has peeved other companies with past reports—pointed out that bottled water is no purer than tap water. A 20/20 blind taste test also compared top-selling brands to water from a New York City faucet. 20/20 emphasized that tap beat both Poland Spring and Evian, but downplayed the fact that bottled brands took the two top spots. New York City’s finest dribbled into a third-place finish behind Aquafina and the winner, Kmart’s low-priced American Fare.IBWA spokeswoman Bridget Wells says she communicated with 20/20 for two weeks as the story was produced, emphasizing that bottled offers convenience away from home and is a healthy alternative to sodas and coffee. “I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt that they went into this with an open mind.”
Through a spokeswoman, ABC says: “We stand by our report.” That’s the PR way of shrugging off the complaints like water off a duck’s back.