I enjoy receiving emailed questions from our readers and try to respond as promptly as possible. Here is a great question (photo enclosed by reader) that I am sure we’ve all wondered about at some point:
“I have a water storage question. I was clearing out boxes from a recent move & found these bottled waters that I had originally stored at the office in case of emergency. But as you can see in the photo, the bottles have changed shape like I drove up & down a mountain. My mom, on a visit, saw these & made me throw them out (recycled bottles but water went down the drain) with the logic that the date on the bottle had past. But I thought that water couldn’t expire. Or is it the plastic (or plant based in one case) is the thing that expires? If this was an emergency & I found these, would it be safe to drink? If I boiled & strained it first would that be safe to drink or only for sanitation?”
Here is the answer:
Our reader is correct: The water itself does not really expire. Bottled water has an expiration date because some states like New Jersey require them to have one. Because the bottling companies prefer not to have different guidelines for every state, they put dates on all their waters. As long as the bottles are sealed, if you are ever in an emergency and you had to drink it, they should be fine. However, the water may not taste or smell as good as water you buy today. According to the FDA,
”Bottled water is considered to have an indefinite safety shelf life if it is produced in accordance with CGMP and quality standard regulations and is stored in an unopened, properly sealed container. Therefore, FDA does not require an expiration date for bottled water. However, long-term storage of bottled water may result in aesthetic defects, such as off-odor and taste. Bottlers may voluntarily put expiration dates on their labels.”
There is also some concern that the plastic may start to leach into the water, but it is not known whether it does it for fresher bottles as well. If it were an emergency and that is the only water I found, I’d run it through a water filter to improve the taste.
The bottles pictured in the email were stored in the office. The place of storage does make a difference as well. The reason is, the plastic of the water bottles may absorb some of the fumes around it. If the water were stored next to gasoline and any other noxious chemicals, do not drink it.