Italians drank more than two billion litres of mineral water in 2004 in restaurants and bars. Usually when a glass of mineral water is ordered, the barman will pour it from a large, already open bottle, but that is about to change. From 19 July 2005 bars will have to give customers a sealed bottle and open it in front of them.

The justification for change is that, over the past ten years, eight people have been poisoned or have suffered severe internal burning in bars when they have been accidentally served caustic cleaning materials transferred to mineral water bottles for storage.

Mineral water producers are expected to introduce new smaller bottles of 125, 250 and 330 millilitres in addition to those currently available. Prices will rise and ecological groups are protesting about the inevitable increase in plastic waste.

It will still be possible to ask for a glass of tap water in a bar or restaurant; this is always free.