Tuesday, 25 November 2008
Dáil Eireann Debate
205. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied with the policy for establishment and maintenance of standards in production of bottled water here; if she will review bottled water labelling to identify three types of source on every bottle for consumers; if not, the reason for same; if a water bottling company must have a pre-approved testing system to comply with Food Safety Authority of Ireland quality control standards; if the bottling company is obliged to conduct daily tests for compliance with these standards; and the frequency of quality control checks by the FSAI on water bottling companies. [42660/08]
Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Deputy Mary Wallace): Packaged water, including bottled water, is subject to several sets of regulations in Ireland and I am satisfied that there is an appropriate legal framework in place for the establishment and maintenance of standards in production of bottled water. The regulations covering the production of bottled water include the European Communities (Hygiene of Foodstuffs) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 369 of 2006), the European Communities (Natural Mineral Waters, Spring Waters and Other Waters in Bottles or Containers) Regulations 2007 (S.I. No 225 of 2007) and the European Communities (General Food Law) Regulations 2007 (S.I. No 747 of 2007).
The bottling plants come within the definition of food business operators under EU legislation and, as such, must meet the requirements set down in EC Regulation (EC) 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs which was transposed into national law in 2006. Consequently the operators of water production/bottling plants must ensure that they meet high food safety standards set out in the legislation. In addition there must be in place a food safety management system based on the principles of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) and staff must have appropriate training. All bottled water plants must register with the Health Service Executive which is the competent authority in this regard.
In addition to general hygiene requirements applicable to the processing plants, there are separate requirements in relation to water. These are set down in the European Communities (Natural Mineral Waters, Spring Waters and Other Waters in Bottles or Containers) Regulations 2007 (S.I. No 225 of 2007). These requirements include microbiological, chemical and labelling parameters, including sale descriptions. There is ongoing testing of all bottled water facilities and the frequency of testing increases in line with production volumes. There is no requirement for a pre-approved testing system but the business operator must put in place a safety management system which ensures the water is safe for consumption and meets all legal requirements.
There are three types of bottled water namely natural mineral water, spring water and other waters. The use of the designations “natural mineral water” and “spring water” is dealt with in S.I. No 225 of 2007. These designations can only be used when the waters meet defined conditions and consumers should be able to distinguish between the different types by reading the label. All bottled water, regardless of which category they fall into must be safe for human consumption.
Bottled water plants are inspected by Environmental Health Officers from the Health Service Executive operating under a Service Contract with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and are visited regularly. Samples are taken and tested generally as part of routine inspections.
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