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Natural mineral waters

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Natural mineral waters

The harmonisation of the legislation on the marketing of natural mineral waters protects the consumer and enables companies exploiting mineral waters to move their products freely throughout the European Union (EU).


Council Directive 80/777/EEC of 15 July 1980 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the exploitation and marketing of natural mineral waters [See amending acts].


This Directive aims to promote the smooth operation of the common market in the natural mineral water sector. It sets out rules on the characteristics and marketing of these products.


This Directive applies to waters recognised by the competent authorities of a Member State as complying with all the criteria applying to natural mineral waters. These waters are distinguished from ordinary drinking water by their nature and their original state. They may have been extracted from the ground of a Member State or a third country.

Exploitation and marketing

Sources of natural mineral water may be exploited only in accordance with the rules established by the responsible authority of the country where the water is extracted. This authority also checks the nature and purity of the waters by means of regular inspections.


The only treatments permitted for mineral water are:

  • the separation of its unstable elements, such as iron, manganese and sulphur compounds and certain undesirable constituents of a natural origin;
  • the elimination or addition of carbon dioxide.

Microbiological analyses at source

This Directive contains criteria for microbiological analyses at source, including those on the presence of certain revivable micro-organisms. In general, natural mineral waters must comply at source with the microbiological criteria for drinking water and give satisfactory evidence of the protection of the source against all contamination.

Labelling and packaging

Labelling of natural mineral waters includes:

  • the sales description, specifying whether the water is naturally carbonated or fortified with gas from the spring;
  • the trade name;
  • the name and location of the spring;
  • analytic composition
  • any treatments.

The packaging must not cause confusion as to the nature of the water by attributing it with false characteristics or curative properties. Annex III of the Directive gives a list of the permitted information and the corresponding criteria.

The term "spring water" may be used only for water intended for human consumption in its natural state which is bottled at source and displays a series of characteristics set out in the Directive.


The Member States must ensure that national laws do not hinder the marketing of mineral waters. However, they may suspend marketing of a mineral water if the product does not comply with this Directive. In this case, they must inform the other Member States and the Commission, which will then take appropriate measures after carrying out checks.


The Standing Committee on the Food Chain will assist the Commission in taking decisions on legislation on the marketing of natural mineral waters.



Entry into force - Date of expiry

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 80/777/EEC



OJ L 229, 30.08.1980.

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 96/70/EC



OJ L 299, 23.11.1996.

Regulation (EC) No 1882/2003



OJ L 284, 31.10.2003.

Subsequent amendments and corrections to Directive 80/777/EEC have been incorporated into the basic text. This consolidated version (pdf) has a purely documentary value.


Council Regulation (EC) No 692/2003 of 8 April 2003 amending Regulation (EEC) No 2081/92 on the protection of geographical indications and designations of origin for agricultural products and foodstuffs [Official Journal L 099, 17.04.2003]. Natural mineral waters are removed from the list of products able to benefit from protected geographical indications and designations of origin; a transitional period is envisaged until 31 December 2013.

Commission Directive 2003/40/EC of 16 May 2003 establishing the list, concentration limits and labelling requirements for the constituents of natural mineral waters and the conditions for using ozone-enriched air for the treatment of natural mineral waters and spring waters [Official Journal L 126, 22.05.2003].

This Directive establishes a list of 16 natural constituents, prolonged consumption of which could present a long-term risk to public health. The maximum levels are laid down for 15 of these constituents. The deadline for compliance for 13 constituents is 1 January 2006; for fluorides and nickel, the deadline is 1 January 2008.

It provides for specific, targeted labelling if the fluoride content is higher than 1.5 mg/l: " Contains more than 1.5 mg/l of fluoride: not suitable for consumption by babies and young children".

It also defines the conditions for the use of ozone-enriched air to eliminate certain constituents from the water, a specific treatment that must be mentioned on the label as follows: "Water subjected to an authorised ozone-enriched air oxidation technique".

List of mineral waters recognised by Iceland (Official Journal C165, 11.07.2002] (pdf )

List of mineral waters recognised by Member States (Official Journal C59, 09.03.2005] (pdf )

List of natural mineral waters in Iceland and Norway (Official Journal C7, 12.01.2006] (pdf ).

Last updated: 07.11.2007