Bottled water



Bottled water is regulated by the French public health code (1). A ministerial decree completes this text by setting limits for toxic and undesirable elements. Specific limits are also set for infant nutrition.


There are three types of bottled water:

Natural mineral water. Drawn from a deep, microbiological healthy source, it presents a constant mineral composition. Its exploitation is subject to prefectural authorisation. It can have health benefits and, depending on their composition, be recommended for specific needs: water containing sulphate can have a laxative effect for example, while others boost calcium intake. Some varieties, which are very low in mineral elements, are recommended for preparing baby feeding bottles. The composition of bottled water must be indicated on the bottle. So-called natural, this type of water is marketed without undergoing microbiological disinfection. It is now subject to the same concentration limits as tap water for a dozen toxic substances (including fluorine, arsenic, nitrates and heavy metals). A list of treatments has been authorised to comply with these limits.

Spring water. Microbiologically healthy, this type of water, the exploitation of which is subject to authorisation, must meet the same potability and quality criteria as tap water. It is also marketed without undergoing microbiological disinfection. Some spring waters can be recommended for preparing baby feeding bottles.

Water made potable by treatment. This type of water complies with the same limits as tap water. It can be treated by any of the treatments authorised for tap water, including disinfection. Marketing of this type of bottled water is not very widespread in France.


Agency's role

On behalf of the Directorate General for Health, the Agency used to process
authorisation applications for natural mineral water exploitation, which were granted by ministerial decree. This procedure is now carried out by prefectures. To help the prefectural departments process these applications, the Agency has developed assessment and decision-support tools.

ANSES assesses specific innovative treatments for mineral water and spring water to ensure that they do not denature the water and do not conceal disinfection. It also assesses bottling practices by assessing the good hygiene practice guide for bottling.
With a view to making its expertise and experience gained over the last 30 years available to operators and their analysis laboratories, the Nancy laboratory is conducting research to formulate guidelines for assessing water packaging materials. This work will provide the smallest bottled water producers with scientific and technical support and foster test harmonisation.

The Agency is
drawing up a protocol for assessing packaging materials in partnership with INRA. In accordance with European regulations, since 2005 spring water and mineral water operators have been required to prove the inertia of the materials they use in packaging. These materials used to have to obtain an accreditation from the Ministry for Health after tests conducted exclusively by the Agency.



(1) Article R. 1322



February 2010
Opinions and/or reports related to this topic (mainly in french) :
Production and sales of natural mineral water

In 2004, France produced 11 billion litres of natural mineral water, 6.6 billion of which were for the French market and 4.4 billion for exporting. The production of natural mineral water has more or less doubled in ten years (1). Since this date, global sales figures for bottle water are steadily falling, with considerable disparities between brands, however.

(1) 2004 data from the Regional Directorate for Industry, Research and Environment/National Division of Mineral and Spring Water
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