Have you ever wondered if your favorite bottle of spring water really comes from the picturesque aqueous view painted on the label? Even if you’re a skeptic, you probably assume it comes from somewhere that’s relatively natural—like a spring, at the least. But a recent lawsuit is shining some light into the allegedly shady practices of at least one bottled water company, and asserting that things are a whole lot different than you might imagine.
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According to a recent article in The New York Times, Nestlé Waters is currently involved in a class-action lawsuit in which plaintiffs are calling the company’s “100% Natural Spring Water Products” a “colossal fraud perpetrated against American consumers.” This is a strong claim—which the company vehemently denies—but a judge reviewing the 325-page lawsuit has allowed it to proceed, and the document alleges some pretty harrowing things.
The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court in Connecticut, alleges not a single drop of Nestlé’s Poland Spring water comes from actual spring water, and the Poland Spring in Maine where the water is supposedly sourced from, has been dry nearly 50 years. The suit also claims Nestlé sources this water from six man-made springs to comply with FDA regulation—one of which is near a present or former human waste dump or landfill.
This isn’t the first time Nestlé has been in the spotlight for false advertising allegations. The New York Times also noted there have been several lawsuits regarding deceptive marketing tactics of Poland Spring water alone, and the company has also faced backlash for taking millions of gallons of water from a national forest in California during last summer’s drought.
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According to a recently updated statement, Nestlé Waters said they will “continue to defend their Poland Spring brand vigorously against this meritless lawsuit,” and that their water has undergone independent testing to confirm it meets FDA regulations for “spring water” labeling.
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The FDA defines “spring water” as “water derived from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the surface of the earth.” There are several requirements this water has to meet, such as an identified location of the spring and a natural force causing water to flow through a natural orifice. To be fair, Nestlé doesn’t claim that all of their water is from a spring—as far back as 2013 they admitted it was predominately from other source, telling Slate that “about a third” of each bottle was from their Maine spring. If the allegations of this—and the handful of other lawsuits—are true, Nestlé’s Poland Spring water even misses that mark.
“Water is going to be one of the most important issues in the world,” Steve Williams, a lawyer for the 12 plaintiffs from various northeastern states, told The Times. “It’s vitally important to consumers to be told the truth.”
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