In the first of a series of interviews with the chair of each of the European Federation of Bottled Waters' working groups, we talk to the chair of the EFBW Quality Working Group, Annick Moreau, scientific and regulatory affairs director at Danone Waters.
What is the role of EFBW's Quality Working Group?
Annick Moreau: EFBW's Quality Working Group provides the orientation for industry alignment on key technical, scientific and regulatory issues affecting the bottled water sector. It's composed of industry and scientific experts whose primary objective is to promote and help maintain the unique characteristics and specificities of natural mineral and spring waters.
The work of the group will typically focus on issues such as safety, quality, good manufacturing processes, health and nutrition claims, monitoring target standards and any legislation affecting bottled waters. The group works closely with specialised agencies and regulatory bodies, such as the European Commission and the Codex Alimentarius, to ensure that the highest safety and quality standards are, and remain applicable to, bottled waters.
What are the key issues/challenges faced by the bottled water industry?
Annick Moreau: In recent years, there has been an ongoing debate about endocrine disruptors and emerging contaminants found in drinking waters. The Quality Working Group closely monitors these issues with a particular focus on the 'chasing zero' trend, whereby advances in analytical chemistry mean that it's now possible to detect ultra-trace-levels of substances in drinking and groundwaters up to picograms!
Natural mineral waters are characterised by their 'original purity' and must be wholesome to drink directly at source, without prior treatment or disinfection. Yet, the potential detection of even tiny amounts of a given molecule can be completely misperceived as in contradiction with the concept of 'original purity' – a specificity of our natural product. Not to mention the misrepresentation of the industry despite it maintaining the highest quality and safety standards of naturally sourced waters.
There's also a need for the industry to better educate consumers on the specific characteristics of natural mineral and spring water as compared to other kinds of water.
The growing trend of serving filtered tap water in restaurants and hotels without clear, appropriate consumer information on the real nature and composition of the water being offered only adds to the confusion!
Doubts about the safety of PET plastic packaging arise, as well as questions to do with the environmental impact of bottled water. The role of PET as a safe, lightweight and recyclable packaging that protects the product in a very efficient way is often overlooked.
And while we're sharing bottlers' best practices, there's still insufficient awareness on the extensive efforts that the industry is making to protect and preserve natural springs through effective water resource management and protection programmes.
What measures has the industry put in place to ensure high quality and safe products?
Annick Moreau: Bottled water is a high-quality product that's strictly controlled and regulated. Frequent checks, analysis and monitoring schemes are required by law and by established industry good practice. In fact, natural mineral water and spring waters must be bottled directly at source. They are transported to the bottling plant in state-of-the-art pipes and packaged directly into bottles that are fitted with a tamper-proof seal.
Producers of bottled waters control the distribution of natural mineral and spring water from the source right to the final consumer, thus the safety and quality are guaranteed by bottling natural waters directly into high-quality sealed packages for final delivery to the consumer.
To further address and promote the industry's quality and food safety management system, EFBW has recently compiled a Guide to Good Hygienic Practices for Packaged Waters. The manual aims to help water bottlers meet the quality and food safety objectives throughout the entire production and distribution process, and sets out standards for the strict hygiene requirements for bottled waters.
Drafted by high level experts from across the sector, the Guide is expected to be adopted by the EU Commission's Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH).
What is the legal framework for bottled waters?
Annick Moreau: All bottled waters are strictly regulated. They're classified as food products and must comply with rigorous EU and national food safety requirements. Bottled waters are subject to a high frequency of tests and analysis based on good hygiene practices and HACCP. In addition, they must meet specific water quality requirements as defined by the relevant EU Directives (ie EU Drinking Water and Natural Mineral Water Directives, depending on the category).
As a food product, bottled water must comply with general food safety and food hygiene requirements (as under EU Regulations 852/ 2004/ EC and 882/2004/ EC).
- Natural mineral water: Directive 2009/54/EC on the exploitation and marketing of natural mineral waters.
- Spring water: Regulated partly by Directive 2009/54/EC on the exploitation and marketing of natural mineral waters and Directive 98/83/EC on the quality of water intended for human consumption.
- Other bottled drinking water: Directive 98/83/EEC relating to the quality of water intended for human consumption.
- Other regulations on food safety and food hygiene apply (Regulation 178/2002/EC as well as Regulation 852/2004/EC and Regulation 882/2004/EC).
In addition, bottled waters must conform to specific EU labelling and packaging requirements.
And what of future perspectives?
Annick Moreau: For consumers who opt for a natural, healthy beverage, bottled waters offer an excellent variety of choice. The industry will continue all efforts to respect and protect the great quality of these naturally sourced waters, and looks ahead with optimism, confident that its products will meet a growing demand for healthy food products.
- Douwe Egberts redesigns packaging to reflect UTZ certification
- GlaxoSmithKline repositions Revive from Lucozade to drive sales
- Rabobank identifies three forces driving the hybrid consumer trend
- Beverage > Water
- Manufacturing > Processing
- Packaging > Labelling
- Business > People/Jobs
- Beverage > Coolers
This article was first published
in Water Innovation.