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Bottled waters facts

History of Bottled Water

Natural mineral waters are part of Europe’s cultural heritage.

Man has recognised the health-giving properties of underground waters for several thousand years. Hippocrates was the first to discover the beneficial effects of certain mineral waters.  The greatest philosophers of Ancient Greece spoke of their virtues and, in ancient Rome, physical hydration in thermal baths was part of the culture.

Pliny the Elder (23-79), the famous naturalist who died during the eruption of Vesuvius,  praised the waters of Ferrarelle (Italy) and established the first classification of natural mineral waters: sulphurous, purgative/laxative, cold, temperate, hot, purifying, fortifying, digestive, ferric, against sciatica, sterility, etc. 

At one time, when surface waters were virtually pure, underground reservoirs were considered as a true gift of the gods, imbued with almost supernatural properties.

The Romans colonizers spread this pseudo religion  from the Mediterranean to the banks of the Rhine and Danube and founded thermal resorts in France, Belgium, Italy, Great Britain and Germany. They were pioneers in medical therapy linked to mineral waters.

In the XVIth century, natural mineral waters such as Spa in Belgium, Vichy, in France, Ferrarelle in Italy or Apollinaris, in Germany, are famous throughout Europe.

Most of those centuries old spa town still host a thermal resort and enjoy a revived interest.
This is the case of the city of Bath for instance in England, where the Roman thermal baths have recently reopened as a spa resort.

The systematic analysis of mineral waters started in the 18tyh century under Louis XV and the first official classification of those waters and their properties was adopted by the Mineral Waters Committee set up by Louis XVI in 1778.( four categories were defined: rich in iron, sparkling, sulphurous waters and salty waters with properties attached). In

The origin of the bottled water industry comes from these spa towns.  Its tradition is hundreds of years old and the bottling activity stems from the custom, of visiting spa towns and the wish of visitors to continue benefiting at home from the properties of medicinal waters. Such practice of bottling water at wells started as early the Roman times when the precious natural mineral waters were carried in in amphoras to cure ‘well off’ patients in all parts of the Empire. The practice further developed in the 16th century -with earthenware bottles but it really took off during the nineteenth century when the effects of pollution and of the illnesses contaminated surface waters could carry (cholera and and typhoid) are discovered. Louis Pasteur stated at the time “we drink 90 % of our illnesses” and encouraged people to drink sealed bottles of mineral waters stressing their purity.

The first mechanical corking machine was invented in 1840. and bottling plant spread across Europe throughout the 19th century. It was over the second half of the 20th century that bottled water started to be widely distributed through grocery shops and to be served in cafes and restaurants as a drink.

European legislators decided to protect the unique characteristics and original purity of Natural Mineral Waters by adopting a Directive on the Exploitation and Marketing of Natural Mineral Waters in 1980.