Labels on drinks sold as health supplements - which contain "healthy" vitamins or minerals - will have to carry specific information as to content and usage under a new EU directive.

The directive, approved by EU ministers in a "political agreement" yesterday, still needs to be accepted by the European Parliament and then formally agreed by ministers. But if it is, drinks not carrying the information will be outlawed from June 2004.

The European Commission said the labels would have to set out the maximum level of vitamins and minerals needed by the average person, taking into account their consumption of other food and drink.

Furthermore, no product will be allowed to claim it can treat, cure or prevent illness.

While the measure is primarily designed for consumer protection, the Commission said it would help drink manufacturers by allowing them to sell in all 15 EU countries under the same harmonised set of rules.

Brussels has published an exhaustive list of acceptable food and drink additives. The directive covers sachets of powder that can be diluted, ampoules of liquids and drop dispensing bottles.

The full text of the original proposal is available at http://europa.eu.int/comm/food/fs/sfp/df_index_en.html