EU bans claim that water can prevent dehydration: not as silly as it sounds

Brussels bureaucrats have been ridiculed after banning drink manufacturers from claiming that water can prevent dehydration – and it has been greeted with much ridicule as yet another example of stifling and stupid European regulation… EU officials concluded that, following a three-year investigation, there was no evidence to prove the previously undisputed fact.

Producers of bottled water are now forbidden by law from making the claim and will face a two-year jail sentence if they defy the edict, which comes into force in the EU in December.

Last night, critics claimed the EU was at odds with both science and common sense. Conservative MEP Roger Helmer said: “This is stupidity writ large.

“The euro is burning, the EU is falling apart and yet here they are: highly-paid, highly-pensioned officials worrying about the obvious qualities of water and trying to deny us the right to say what is patently true. If ever there were an episode which demonstrates the folly of the great European project then this is it.”

German professors Dr Andreas Hahn and Dr Moritz Hagenmeyer, who advise food manufacturers on how to advertise their products, asked the European Commission if the claim could be made on labels.

They compiled what they assumed was an uncontroversial statement in order to test new laws which allow products to claim they can reduce the risk of disease, subject to EU approval.

They applied for the right to state that “regular consumption of significant amounts of water can reduce the risk of development of dehydration” as well as preventing a decrease in performance.

However, last February, the European Food Standards Authority (EFSA) refused to approve the statement.

A meeting of 21 scientists in Parma, Italy, concluded that reduced water content in the body was a symptom of dehydration and not something that drinking water could subsequently control.

Now the EFSA verdict has been turned into an EU directive which was issued on November 18, 2011.

Why the EU made its common sense-defying decision

The EU’s decision on bottled water was right, argues Prof Brian Ratcliffe, Nutrition Society spokesman and Professor of Nutrition at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen

Writing in The Telegraph, he says the application for a health claim that was made to the EC was “regular consumption of significant amounts of water can reduce the risk of development of dehydration and of concomitant (associated) decrease of performance.”

“While this sounds like common sense, it fell foul of the EC because it was not technically correct, and the EC introduced the control of health claims to protect consumers from misleading information on products.

“If it was permitted, it seems to me that it could be made for any food that contained a significant amount of water as well as on bottled water, colas, and presumably beers, so it’s not very useful. Also, it could be used to imply that there is something special about bottled water which is not the case.

“The application failed because to make a claim it must ‘reduce a risk factor in the development of a human disease’.

“The applicants proposed water loss in tissues or reduced water content in tissues as ‘risk factors’ but these are actual symptoms of dehydration.

“This technicality may be difficult to grasp but it’s a little like saying ‘breathing regularly reduces the risk of suffocation’.”

Source: The Telegraph