Nestle SA is currently facing a new lawsuit in the United States which alleges that its Poland Spring brand is nothing more than “common groundwater” and not spring water, as advertised. The suit claims, then, that this brand of bottled water is a “colossal fraud.”
This claim, though, has a little more nuance to it then what you see at first glance. You see, the historic Poland Spring site, in western Maine, displays a mountain stream of mineral water protected by a shield of glass. It is majestic, and all, but it is not an actual stream; at least, not anymore. While there used to be a natural flowing stream of mineral water here, the presence is now the result of water pumped out of the ground by a machine.
It is important to note that the United States Food and Drug Administration defines spring water as “water derived from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the surface of the earth.” The FDA also details the proper methods for collecting this water.
According to the complaint, then, “To consumers, ‘spring water’ from a naturally occurring spring signifies purity and high quality and commands a premium price compared to defendant’s non-spring drinking water products or filtered tap water.” The class-action suit filed on behalf of eleven consumers who have purchased the water goes on to say, “To illicitly capture that premium, defendant, since it began selling the Poland Spring brand in 1993, has bottled common groundwater and illegally mislabeled it as ‘100 percent Natural Spring Water.’”
It is also important to note that the Poland Spring water products are not contaminated because the company disinfects the groundwater it collects—often purifying it as well—the water from the well(s) comes from low-lying areas where there is always a potential for contamination. This complicates the matter, of course.
As you might expect, Nestle Water has vowed to fight the suit in court.
In a statement issued by the company, on Saturday, “The claims made in the lawsuit are without merit and an obvious attempt to manipulate the legal system for personal gain.” Nestle insists, “Poland Spring is 100% spring water. It meets the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations defining spring water, all state regulations governing spring classification for standards of identity, as well as all federal and state regulations governing spring water collection, good manufacturing practices, product quality and labeling. We remain highly confident in our legal position.”