Drinking water does not ease dehydration, the European Union has ruled – and anyone who disagrees faces two years in prison.

The decision – after three years of discussions – results from an attempt by two German academics to test EU advertising rules which set down when companies can claim their products reduce the risk of disease.

The academics asked for a ruling on a convoluted statement which, in short, claimed that water could reduce dehydration.

Dehydration is defined as a shortage of water in the body – but the European Food Standards Authority decided the statement could not be allowed.

The ruling, announced after a conference of 21 EU-appointed scientists in Parma and which means that bottled water companies cannot claim their product stops people’s bodies drying out, was given final approval this week by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

Yesterday, Tory MEP Roger Helmer said: ‘This is stupidity writ large. The euro is burning, the EU is falling apart and yet here they are worrying about the obvious qualities of water. If ever there were an episode which demonstrates the folly of the great European project, then this is it.’

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