Food Law News - EU - 2002

FSA Letter, 16 August 2002

MINERAL WATER - Draft Commission Directive on concentration limits & labelling requirements for constituents of natural mineral waters & conditions for using ozone for treatment of natural mineral and spring waters

The FSA are seeking comments on a working document, issued by the Commission, for a proposed Directive establishing concentration limits and labelling requirements for the constituents of natural mineral waters, and the conditions for using ozone for the treatment of natural mineral waters and spring waters. After a period of inactivity, a draft of a Commission Directive was circulated in association with an Expert Working Group meeting held in July.

At the meeting, delegates were informed that the Commission was hoping to amend the draft in the light of the discussions and to put it to a Standing Committee meeting (possibly on 25 September 2002) for discussion before issuing a proposal. The FSA wish to ensure that it takes account of all information from stakeholders and is asking for comment on the third draft of the working text. Suggestions for amendments to the third draft text made at the last working group meeting are set out below. As soon as an amended text is available, it will be circulated, although this may be close to the time of the Standing Committee meeting in September. A full consultation will take place when the formal Commission proposal is available.

The proposal

The text of the working document was circulated with the letter and is available from the FSA website.

Possible amendments to the third draft of the text

It was suggested in the Working Group that the limit of 2 milligrams per litre be changed to 1.5 milligrams per litre in paragraph 2 of Article 4. This would ensure that any natural mineral water containing fluoride at a level higher than the maximum limit for tap water would be required to make an indication on the label. As this level of fluoride would be expected to have a pharmacological effect only on continuous and repeated exposure, it was suggested that 'for regular use' be added to the warning statement.

It was also suggested that paragraph 1 of Article 4 should be removed. Council Directive 80/777/EEC already permits the voluntary indication 'contains fluoride' if the natural mineral water contains more than 1 milligram fluoride per litre. It was not thought necessary to have any compulsory requirement for waters containing less than 1.5 milligrams fluoride per litre.

At the meeting, it was envisaged that provisions would be included to permit the reduction of fluoride levels in natural mineral water where they exceeded the 5 milligrams per litre limit (Annex I). Such defluoridation would only allow a reduction to a minimum fluoride level of 1.5 milligrams per litre. This would ensure that, where water has been treated to reduce the fluoride level, the label must indicate that the product contains fluoride at 1.5 milligrams per litre. Such treated products would then not gain a marketing advantage over source waters naturally containing low levels of fluoride by making large reductions in fluoride concentration.

There was considerable discussion about the wording of the statement in Article 6 to indicate the use of ozonation. It is likely that the statement in the final version of the Commission Directive will be 'water treated by an oxidation technique using ozonated air' or similar.


Comments would be welcome on the draft, and in particular, on:-

a) The proposed limits for barium, chromium, copper, fluoride, manganese, nitrate and nitrite in Annex I of the draft Directive (limits for substances in natural mineral water that are not already set in the Natural Mineral Water, Spring Water and Bottled Drinking Water Regulations 1999 and proposed amendments).

b) The proposed limits for substances formed as a result of ozonation of natural mineral water or spring water (in Annex III of the draft Directive).

c) The wording of the proposed indication for natural mineral waters containing more than 1.5 milligrams per litre fluoride.

d) The wording of the proposed labelling statement for use on waters treated with ozone (applies to treated natural mineral water and spring water).

e) The implementation times.

Existing producers of natural mineral water that do not meet the requirements for specific parameters will have a transitional period to ensure compliance.

New recognitions (after the publication of the Commission Directive) will have to comply with the new limits immediately to obtain recognition.

Where methods are not yet available to decrease the concentration of substances e.g. boron and nickel, additional time will be given for existing waters to comply.

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