A top YouTuber slammed Dasani over additive conspiracy theories. Experts say they don't hold water.

shane dawson dasani water controversy
  • Consumers are taking to YouTube and other social media platforms to complain about the taste of the Coca-Cola water bottle brand Dasani.
  • In a new YouTube video, Shane Dawson reviewed claims that the product tastes strange, makes a "fizz" sound upon opening, and that the ingredients list includes salt among other additives - suggesting that something nefarious is afoot with the water.
  • A bottled-water expert told Business Insider that Dasani is using many of the same practices that other bottled-water manufacturers use. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Coca-Cola's Dasani bottled water brand has faced some bumps in the road since its 1991 release. In 2004, there was an uproar after consumers discovered the "pure" water was, in fact, purified tap water. Then, the company had to pull its product from the UK because it had included too much bromate, a chemical compound that has been found to increase cancer risks.

"The Dasani scandal has left Coke nursing a £25 million loss from canceled production contracts and advertising deals," The Guardian reported in 2004. "The damage to the firm's reputation is 20 times that figure, analysts say."Advertisement

Now, Dasani has become a popular subject of memes, as consumers take to TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram to make fun of its taste and discuss conspiracy theories about its additives.  

The latest addition to the discourse came from Shane Dawson, the YouTuber known for his conspiracy theory investigations and minor documentaries on other influencers. In a video published on Saturday, April 4, Dawson explored claims that the product tastes strange, makes a "fizz" sound upon opening, and includes additives like salt that could make drinkers more thirsty.

In his video, Dawson tries the water on-camera, at first upset by the bottle's infamous "fizz" sound upon opening. "Why does Dasani have a fizz when you open it? That's a soda thing," Dawson said in the video. "That doesn't make sense. That means there's something else in it."
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Dawson did acknowledge in the video that some theories he discussed were "really stupid." 

Dasani did not immediately return Business Insider's request for comment. 

It's become trendy online to make fun of Dasani for its taste and ingredients 

A search for "Dasani" on Twitter reveals a huge community of Dasani haters: There's influencer Corinna Kopf writing that the beverage is "cancelled," and memes about how the company manufactures the product. Advertisement

Dasani hatred has been a touchpoint of meme culture for years, especially within the Reddit community. Now, there's even a private Subreddit for fans of the drink to post about it "without being criticized." But the meme went mainstream last month when coronavirus-induced panic shoppers began hoarding water bottles, with the exception of Dasani. "Coronavirus is starting a panic and people still aren't buying Dasani water," one Reddit post said. 

A moderator for the HydroHomies subreddit told Insider in an email that it's Dasani's association with Coca-Cola that contributes to the vitriol. "People are easily convinced to hate it," the moderator said. 

Martin Riese, the world's leading "water sommelier," explained his own dislike for Dasani water in an interview with Mel Magazine. "I'm really not interested in the taste of highly processed, designed-by-focus-group factory water, which is what Dasani is," Riese told Mel. "So it makes me happy that Americans are finally realizing that they shouldn't spend their money on filtered tap water." Advertisement

Dasani water is 'purified' tap water 

Dasani is made from purified water by using "reverse osmosis filtration" - technically, that's tap water. Any bottled water made with reverse osmosis filtration comes from "municipal" sources, which means the tap, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  

While the company has faced some backlash for using tap water in its bottled product, that uproar can be attributed to social perceptions towards drinking water in the US, according to a 2011 research paper published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. "Bottled water has been used in place of tap water for its convenience, better taste, and perceived purity," the article says. "Perceptions of bottled water being of higher quality, however, are challenged by the increasing number of water quality incidents with bottled water." 

Peter Gleick, the author of "Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind our Obsession with Bottled Water," estimates that around 50 percent of brands use mostly tap water in their bottles. "It's harder and harder to produce what's called spring water, which is really the other category," Gleick said.Advertisement

There's nothing that sketchy about its ingredients 

After they process and filter municipal tap water, Dasani adds certain minerals and salts into the mixture. "All water has minerals, and the different types of minerals sort of determine the taste for the water," said Gleick, "and they want Dasani everywhere to taste the same." 

Magnesium sulfate, potassium chloride, and salt are added to the water, according to Dasani's nutrition label. Dasani's ingredients aren't so different from other bottled waters like Aquafina, its Pepsi-run competitor, and Nestle Pure Life. "They're all sort of low-mineral, low-salt, and I would even argue bland-tasting waters," Gleick said. 

David Sedlak, co-director of the Berkeley Water Center, said that these factors can contribute to a person's like or dislike of the water. "There have been a number of scientific studies on the aesthetic properties of water and people tend to prefer certain mixtures of salts (i.e., sodium, potassium, chloride, carbonate, etc.)," Sedlak told Business Insider in an email. "People also tend to dislike the taste of water with very high or very low salt levels." Advertisement

So, when YouTube videos like Dawson's allege Dasani water makes them "more thirsty," this is likely just psychosomatic. "It seems like one of these urban myths," Gleick said. "The salt content of Dasani is very low."

The "fizz" sound Dasani makes is probably just the release of pressure 

Though Dawson and others on YouTube claimed that Dasani water makes a "fizz" sound upon opening that other bottles don't make, Gleick said that doesn't really add up - but it's probably just the sound of the bottle "relieving pressure."As for whether or not there's some other mysterious, secret ingredient added in to cause that "fizz" sound, Gleick doesn't think it's possible that there's any added carbonation. "I've been to bottling plants. They put the water in the bottle and the machine seals the bottle, and then that's it," he said. "It's hard for me to even think of anything other than this pressure differential." Advertisement

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