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Drinking and process water, ABC

Drinking water and process. parameters to guarantee food safety and public health, currently under review at European level. Some recommendations also to the 'accidental tourists'.

Drinking water, what rules

The definition of 'food' it includes both drinking and natural mineral waters, and the so-called 'process' water. That means 'intentionally incorporated into foods in the course of their manufacture, preparation or processing. It includes water at the points where the values ​​must be respected as set out in Article 6 of Directive 98/83 / EC and without prejudice to the requirements of Directives 80/778 / EEC and 98/83 / EC'(reg. EC 178/02, Article 2).

The quality of water intended for human consumption it is the subject of specific European and national regulations. (1) With the aim of ensuring public health - starting from the bands of population more vulnerable qualchildren, pregnant women and elderly - with respect to the risk of exposure to harmful contamination. (2)

The concept of potability is conditional on compliance with a series of parameters-chemical and microbiological- and i campionthe waters must comply with in order to be fit for consumption. Some parameters are not always respected, due to the environmental conditions of different territories. And it is therefore that there are regional measures of transitory derogation, authorized by the Ministry of Health. With the idea of ​​reconciling the needs of water supply with those of safety, within the limits of the possible.

Drinking water, sensory analysis and 'tourists by chance'

Sensory analysis (clarity, absence of unpleasant smells and tastes) has long been the only criterion for assessing the suitability oflle matrixi aqueousAnd. And it still represents it for those who - on the occasion of mountain hikes or 'adventure travel' in distant countries - face the risk of drinking from water sources without adequate controls.

The sense organs though they can lead to dangerous deceptions. Bacterial contamination can ruin a vacation, but also cause severe toxins. The water, primary natural resource, it is in fact one of the main transmission vehicles of variousand pathologies.

La chemical contamination - from metals, where present in high concentrations, residues of agrotoxic and other substances - in turn it cannot be detected by the sensory organs. Beyond some solvents some metals responsible for organoleptic evidence).

To 'casual tourists' it is recommended therefore to take only drinks in sealed packages, avoiding the consumption of ice and raw food, when visiting countries unable to ensure the safety of water supplies.

Ttransparency, color and smell they may inspire a prose or a song, but they are not worth a hospital adventure or a food safety crisis. Without analysis, better not to drink and strictly forbidden to use in food production processes.

Drinking water, composition and microbiology

The chemical elements and characterize water fall into two categoriesmacroelements and microelements. They are andboth protagonists ofthe metabolic processes that take place nel our body and may be present in the form of swings, ions or organic compounds.

The macroelements are those present in the human organism whose daily requirement is superand 100 mg (calcium, chlorine, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sodium and sulfur the main). The microelements are instead those whose daily requirement is less than 100 mg (the main ones are iron, copper, cobalt, fluorine, iodine, manganese, molybdenum, copper and selenium).

Excess or scarcity of the elements mentioned above could compromise the regular functioning of some some to processmost important that take place inside our body.

Dfrom a microbiological point of view, the water is not sterile, being there there is a normal microbial load consisting ofthe cd 'environmental bacteria'There is then a microbial component 'ofdesired’, which should be absent in campionof acquof buonto quality.

Drinking water, the legal parameters in course revision

The 98 / 83 / CE directive (so-called drinking water directive) and dconcrete llegislative 31/01 who has received it define  i criteria and i values to be respected inchemical-physical and microbiological measurementsto to qualify a water like drinking:

  • pmicrobiological arameters (Escherichia Coliand enterococci, zero tolerance),
  • chemical parameters (metals, pesticides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and other substances such as benzene and vinyl chloride, among others),
  • indicator parameters.

La proposal to revise the directive drinking water, adopted in Brussels on 1.2.18, was voted on by the Strasbourg Assembly on 23.10.18. The process will end with an agreement between Parliament, the Council and the European Commission, expected in the first half of 1. The main changes concern the extension of the list of substances to be monitored.

The chemical parameters they need to be updated in the light of WHO recommendations and emerging risks associated with a plurality of substances. Among other things, the introduction of the maximum values ​​of bisphenol A (BPA, widely used endocrine disruptor in the production of plastic materials, 0,01μg / l), beta-estradiol (a natural estrogen, 0,001μg / l) is nonylphenol (surfactant harmful to the environment, 0,3 μg / l). And regular monitoring of polyfluoroalkyls (PFAS).

Objective of the review è strengthen citizens' confidence insupplyand water promote the use of tap water. With the further goal of reduce consumption of packaging in plastic single use, in the context ofcircular economy.

A serious shortage of the reform project, on the other hand, concerns the specific regulation of materials intended to come into contact with water. THE materials that come into contact with water dethey want to come adjusted with the same severity provided for food packaging (MOCHA)Francia, Holland, Great Britain and Germany they have already taken steps to harmonize their respective standard of hygiene for materials and products in contact with drinking water.

The European Commission considers it sufficient to rely on the Building Materials Regulation rather than to extend the scope of the Drinking Water Directive in this sense. As requested by the 4 Member states, with the support of Italy, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Luxembourg, as well as of the European Alliance for Drinking Water (EDW) and the EU delegation of the Association of Water Suppliers (EurEau).

Dario Dongo and Ylenia Desireè Patti Giammello

Footnotes to the story

(1) Cf. Legislative Decree 31/01, implementation of the dir. 98/83 / EC relating to the quality of water intended for human consumption. As amended in Annexes II and III, by decree Min. Sal. 14.6.17, in compliance with dir.UE 2015 / 1787. EU decision 2018/840 in turn updated a checklist of substances to be monitored at Union level in the field of water policy, in implementation of the fir. 2008/105 / EC

(2) Waters intended for human consumption qualify as food and are therefore subject to the food safety requirements defined, in general terms, by reg. CE 178/02 (cd General Food Law)

(3) See Note 1

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

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Laboratory technician, passionate about the production and distribution of food products, consumer information and culinary art.

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