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Natural Mineral Water

The term 'natural mineral water' (NMW) is legally defined and can only be used where the water complies with specific provisions in legislation including source, compositional and labelling requirements of the following legislation. Natural mineral waters are subject to an authorisation procedure carried out by the competent authorities of EU countries. In Ireland, the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) is the responsible authority for the recognition of natural mineral waters in Ireland.

NMWs must comply with the following legislation:

  • EU legislation
  • national legislation
  • general provisions and labelling
  • recognised natural mineral waters

EU legislation

Directive 2009/54/EC (OJ L 164, p 45, 26.06.2009) of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 June 2009 on the exploitation and marketing of natural mineral waters

Directive 2003/40/EC (OJ L 126, p 34, 22.05.2003) 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

National legislation

European Union (Natural Mineral Waters, Spring Waters and Other Waters in Bottles or Containers) Regulations 2016 (S.I. No. 282 of 2016) as amended by S.I. No. 691 of 2022.

General provisions and labelling

Under Directive 2009/54/EC, natural mineral water is microbiologically wholesome water, originating in an underground source, protected from all risk of pollution and emerging from a spring tapped at one or more natural or bore exits. It is clearly distinguished from ordinary drinking water by its nature (mineral content and trace elements) and by its original state. Only very limited treatments are permitted.

The legislation covers the definition of natural mineral water, its exploitation, treatment, microbiological criteria, chemical contaminants, sales descriptions, labelling and packaging. In addition, Directive 2003/40/EC establishes 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.

Labels on natural mineral waters must give the following mandatory information:

  • a statement of the analytical composition, giving its characteristic constituents;
  • the place where the spring is exploited and the name of the spring; and
  • information on any treatments referred to in points (b) and (c) of the first subparagraph of Article 4(1) of Directive 2009/54/EC.

Natural mineral waters with a fluoride concentration exceeding 1.5 milligrams per litre shall bear on the label—

  • the words “contains more than 1.5 mg/l of fluoride: not suitable for regular consumption by infants and children under 7 years of age”, and
  • an indication as to the actual fluoride content in relation to the physico-chemical composition in terms of essential constituents

Obligatory words

Natural mineral waters which have been treated with ozone-enriched air shall have on their labels, close to the analytical composition of characteristic constituents, the words “water subjected to an authorised ozone-enriched air oxidation technique”.

Natural mineral waters are exempt from Section 3 of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers, which covers the nutrition declaration requirements on a label. These waters are required to provide compositional analysis on the label under Directive 2009/54/EC.

Recognised Natural Mineral Waters 

To be recognised as a Natural Mineral Water, the water and source must be assessed. In Ireland, the responsible authority for assessing and declaring an Irish water to be a natural mineral water is the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI).

Currently there are two waters registered with NSAI as natural mineral waters. These are:

Sales Description Source Place of Exploitation
Glenpatrick Glenpatrick Spring Powerstown, Clonmel, County Tipperary
Ballygowan Ballygowan Newcastle West, County Limerick

The list of natural mineral waters both within the EU and in Third Countries recognised as such by European Member States is published on the EU website.