Last year beverage companies sold $16 billion worth of bottled water, a 10 percent increase from 2016. The drink is even more popular than soda, but it certainly isn’t a hit with everyone. Along with being a frequent target for environmentalists, critics have also accused companies of lying about the origin of the water in their bottles. In fact, that’s the basis of a class action lawsuit recently filed against Nestle’s Poland Spring brand.
According to the complaint, “Not one drop of Poland Spring Water emanates from a water source that complies with the Food and Drug Administration definition of ‘spring water.’” The lawsuit also states that “the famous Poland Spring in Poland Spring, Maine, which defendant’s labels claim is a source of Poland Spring Water, ran dry nearly 50 years ago.” Instead, the plaintiffs allege that the company has sold billions of gallons of groundwater. FDA regulations say that spring water must come from an underground source that flows naturally to the surface. Companies aren’t required to collect water directly from the spring, however, allowing them to pump from holes in the ground.
Nestle claims that it follows the FDA’s rules closely and that “Poland Spring is 100 percent spring water.” Still, some say the regulations are too vague to ensure that companies pump water from springs rather than groundwater sources. “Most of Nestle’s waters are pumped from the ground, but the bigger issue that the regulatory definition of what really counts as spring water is really weak,” said scientist Peter Gleick. “No one is really looking over the shoulders of the bottled water companies.” What’s more, this isn’t the first time that Nestle has faced legal action over Poland Spring. In 2003 the company paid $10 million to charity after losing a similar suit based on claims of false advertising. Nestle never admitted it was at fault, however, and the company did not change its water pumping practices. Only time will tell if Nestle will face a similar outcome in this current case.
- Do you think Nestle has falsely advertised its Poland Spring brand?
- Should the FDA update its rules regarding spring water?