I got a bottle of flavored water at the store the other day. At least, that’s what I thought I was buying. I’d occasionally pick up a simple sparkling mineral water with lime and cherry oils added, which I found to be a delightfully refreshing drink that offered the same bite as sodas without the junk ingredients, and I’d indulge myself from time to time.
This time, however, I didn’t notice a change in the label until I got it home. Instead of simply calling it “Sparking Mineral Water” they called it “Sparkling Water Beverage.” When I saw the word “beverage” alarms went off in my head. “Beverage” added to water is like “drink” added to juice. It means it’s not what it says it is. (A juice drink generally is short on juice and long on sugar and artificial flavors.)
The “beverage” turned out to have many different ingredients other than plain old water: carbonated water, citric acid, natural flavor, potassium citrate, aspartame, potassium benzoate, and acesulfame potassium.
If this particular beverage is water, then so is Coca Cola. The ingredients in Coke Zero are carbonated water, caramel color, phosphoric acid, aspartame, potassium benzoate, natural flavors, potassium citrate, potassium benzoate, and acesulfame potassium and caffeine.
The main difference between Coke Zero and “my” Sparkling Water Beverage seems to be the coloring and caffeine. Otherwise, they are basically the same sort of product.
I would never have bought the “water” if I had paid attention to the ingredients since I stay away from aspartame and rarely drink sodas.
I guess this will teach me to read all labels, especially the labels for something as innocuous as water.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.