Labeling requirements of bottled water

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05 Jan 2016

Legislation regarding food labeling has been the subject of debate and consultation for a number of years now and has at long last been published.

The legislation in question, namely Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act, covers a number of foodstuff and related products and in the next few weeks we will focus on, the primary requirements laid down by the legislation and corresponding regulations, of some of these foodstuffs and products. As a starting point, however, we will focus on bottled water.

Interestingly, the legislation has classified bottled water as a foodstuff and it is regulated by the Department of Health. The Minister of Health, in terms of Section 15(2) of the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act issued the Regulations relating to Bottled Water. The Regulations relating to Bottled Water distinguishes between natural waters, waters defined by origin and prepared waters and the following is relevant with regard to the labeling of bottled water:

Natural water is defined as:

  • “sourced from an underground aquifer and bottled at source.”

The emphasis here is on ‘natural’ and so no treatment of the water is allowed. The composition of the bottled water is therefore identical to that of the source water. Natural mineral water and natural spring water fall into this class.

The label must contain the following:

  1. The name of the product, which shall be ‘natural mineral water’ or ‘natural spring water’ or any appropriate name indicating the natural condition of the water.
  2. The physical address and the name of the source.
  3. The analytical composition in milligrams per litre (mg/l).
  4. The specification of the kind of natural water by the use of the expression “naturally-carbonated natural water’, ‘natural non-carbonated natural water’, ‘decarbonated natural water’ etc., which may be accompanied by further descriptive expressions such as ‘still’ and ‘sparkling’.

Water defined by origin includes:

  • “rain, glacier, mist, and spring water.”

As a general rule these do require antimicrobial treatments, but no treatments are allowed that would alter the chemical composition of the water.

The label must contain the following:

  1. The name of the product, indicating its environmental source.
  2. Further descriptive expressions such as ‘naturally carbonated’ or ‘naturally sparkling’ or ‘with added carbon dioxide’ or ‘non-carbonated’ or non-sparkling’ or ‘still’.
  3. The physical address and the name of the source.
  4. The method of sanitation.
  5. The chemical composition of the water in milligrams per litre (mg/l).

Prepared water includes:

  • “municipal, surface or ground water that has been purified by treatments that change the chemical composition of the water.”

In the case of municipal water, for instance, previously added chemicals such as fluoride are removed and minerals are added.

The label must contain the following:

  1. The name of the product, which shall be ‘prepared water’.
  2. Further descriptive expressions such as ‘carbonated’ or ‘sparkling’.
  3. Disinfection or treatment method used, e.g. re-mineralised, ozonated, pasteurised, reverse osmosis
  4. The chemical composition of the prepared water
  5. The phrase ‘from a public or private distribution system’ if the prepared water was supplied by a public or private tap-water distribution system.

The Regulations relating to Bottled Water makes provision for the fact that packaged water shall be labelled in accordance with the provisions of the Regulations Governing the Labelling and Advertising of Foodstuffs (commonly referred to as R146), which was discussed in the previous articles on labeling. Therefore, if the labeling of bottled water do not comply with the requirements the same consequences will be applicable as provided for in R146, namely:

  1. in terms of the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act and R146 a foodstuff manufacturer may be held liable and is punishable with a fine or sentencing;
  2. should the label or packaging not contain the correct information, a consumer may institute action against the manufacturer, in terms of the Consumer Protection Act (hereinafter the “CPA”).
  3. the Advertising Standards Authority (hereinafter the “ASA”) prohibits any advertising which contains a statement or visual presentation which, directly or by implication, omission, ambiguity, inaccuracy, exaggerated claim or otherwise, is likely to mislead the consumer.

It is, accordingly, advisable for a supplier or distributor of products to scrutinize its products and, in particular, the labeling of its products to ensure that it complies with the labeling regulations. In the case of, for example, bottled water one has to ensure that the relevant regulations and guidelines are consulted. This could be a rather daunting task and it may, accordingly, be advisable to approach Attorneys, specialists in labeling requirements such as Adams & Adams, to assist with a matter of such importance and which could have severe implications if not implemented correctly.

(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
Johan du Preez

Johan du Preez specialises in Intellectual Property Protection in South Africa and Africa with particular expertise in all areas of Trade Mark Law, from brand creation, clearance searches, trademark filing... Read more about Johan du Preez


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