FSA Interested Parties Letter (LSB/318, LSB/220, LSB/323), 19 September 2007
I am writing to keep you informed and aware of upcoming developments from the Agency and Europe on bottled water.
Consolidation of the Bottled Water Regulations
The consolidated Natural Mineral Water, Spring Water and Bottled Drinking Water Regulations 2007 are on schedule to come into force by 31 October. I would like to thank all those people and organisations that responded to our consultation on the draft Regulations last year. The comments made during the consultation are now on the Agency's website (http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/consultationresponse/waterresp06rev.pdf). This includes our feedback on each point raised during consultation, which were either incorporated it into the final draft or, where it has not been possible, explaining why this is the case.
The issue that attracted the most comment was the rewording of the provision for minimum hardness in softened/desalinated bottled water, which raised concerns as to the practicality of application as it appeared to preclude remineralisation as an option for compliance. The Agency has decided, in light of these comments and revisiting the provision, that remineralisation is an acceptable manner in which to meet the minimum hardness requirements and the wording in the new SI will reflect this position.
There were also several comments as to the need for the minimum hardness requirement in the first place. We have retained this provision at present as it is in line with existing advice from a UK independent expert committee (COMA, 1994) and recent reviews of the health effects of water hardness have not dismissed the evidence of beneficial side effects. It is intended to review this position in the near future.
Regulations Allowing Bottled Water to be Labelled as “suitable for the preparation of infant feed and infant formulae”
The FSA has completed discussions with the European Commission under the technical notifications procedure and has agreed amendments to the marketing provisions (labelling, advertising and promotion) proposed in the draft that are now acceptable to the Commission.
However, these changes are significant enough, and the previous consultation long enough ago, that we will need a further consultation on the revised text. We will be looking to carry out a shorter consultation than the normal 12 weeks, as the changes are limited in scope.
The Agency had originally intended to include the requirements of this draft SI in the consolidating Statutory Instrument. However, in view of the delays resulting from negotiations with the Commission and the further consultation required, we decided it would be best to implement the consolidating SI as it stands with the associated guidance note.
The intention is now that the requirements relating to infant feed in this draft SI will become part of a new amending SI which will also include the draft Commission Regulation on treatment of natural mineral water to remove fluoride (see below). The Agency hopes to bring this legislation into force by the first quarter of 2008.
Treatment Methods for Natural Mineral Water and Spring Water
A draft Commission Regulation on the use of activated alumina to remove fluoride is currently under discussion at the Commission Working Group on Natural Mineral Waters. This draft was circulated to industry associations and consumer groups and was also put on the FSA website (http://www.food.gov.uk/foodindustry/regulation/europeleg/euupdates/nmweuupdate0707).
The Commission is seeking to have this in force to a very short timescale, as the intention is to allow Member States which produce natural mineral water with a fluoride level higher than that permitted in Directive 2003/40/EC to comply by the final deadline of 1 January 2008. Producers from several Member States would not be able to meet the fluoride limit without treatment. The UK took the option to apply this fluoride limit earlier than required, as permitted by the Directive, so it is already in force in the UK .
As mentioned above, the Agency is considering bringing in a single Statutory Instrument to include the provisions of both this Commission Regulation and to allow bottled water meeting specific criteria to be labelled as suitable for preparing infant feed (discussed in the previous section). We will be looking to carry out a shorter consultation than the normal 12 weeks, as the timescale to implement this Commission Regulation will be short. Also, as far as the Agency is aware, there are no UK producers who actually need to remove fluoride from their natural mineral water or spring water to comply with the UK Regulations. As mentioned in the previous section the aim is to bring this SI into force by the first quarter of 2008.
However, we are also aware that a further draft Regulation on the use of metal oxide treatments to remove iron, arsenic and manganese is likely to be discussed in the Commission Working Group in the New Year. We understand that this treatment is used in the UK and may well affect UK producers. The Agency will obviously keep all interested parties up to date on any developments on this issue.