FRANCE – Consumer watchdog Foodwatch has lodged a legal complaint against Nestlé’s waters business and France’s Sources Alma, accusing the companies of utilizing banned treatments in their bottled mineral water.  

The complaint, filed on Wednesday, asserts that the companies violated European Union and French regulations in their processing of bottled water sold to consumers without their knowledge. 

“This is a massive fraud for which Nestle Waters, the Sources Alma group, and the French government must answer,” stated the European watchdog. 

Foodwatch contends that Nestlé Waters and Sources Alma engaged in the “illegal processing of their bottled waters and then sold them without informing consumers.” 

Nestlé recently acknowledged breaching regulations in France regarding its treatment of bottled mineral water against contamination.  

The company mentioned that it used ultraviolet light and active carbon filters on some top brands, such as Perrier and Vittel, to ensure food safety, and had informed French authorities about this in 2021. 

The company recently released it annual results and, in its statement, revealed it had started to look into its bottled-water businesses in other, unspecified, countries. 

Nestlé said the company is “reviewing operating practices in its natural mineral water operations in several countries”. 

The S. Pellegrino brand owner added: “With food safety as a primary goal, practices at some of its production sites may not be in line with the applicable regulatory framework. Nestlé regrets the situation and is currently engaging with the relevant authorities to ensure that its operating practices are fully compliant. 

The company emphasizes that its water products have always been, and remain, safe to drink. In addition, the unique mineral composition of its natural mineral water brands has always been consistent with the label.” 

French law, aligned with a European Union directive, prohibits the purification of mineral water, which is expected to be naturally high quality before bottling.  

Following a complaint by France’s ARS health regulator, French prosecutors initiated an investigation into suspected fraud by Nestle Waters last month. 

Foodwatch, in addition to the legal action, has written to the European Commission, criticizing what it perceives as the complacency of France and urging alert European authorities and other member states importing the affected waters.  

The watchdog seeks accountability for the alleged violation of regulations governing the quality and treatment of mineral water. 

The consumer group claims that the companies used prohibited treatment systems such as carbon or ultraviolet filters, and popular bottled water brands like Cristaline, Perrier, Vittel, Vichy, Hepar, and Contrex were treated in non-compliant ways. 

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