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Bottled waters have long been suspected of being more hype than substance in their claims, but now Poland Springs faces a lawsuit over its source. Eleven consumers filed a class action lawsuit on August 17, 2017 against Nestlé Waters North America, Inc., alleging that the company's Poland Spring Bottled Water is "a colossal fraud.".
The 11 consumers, or plaintiffs, in the case allege the company has consistently mislabeled Poland Spring water as "100% spring water," when it is not, and that is a fraud. The 325-page lawsuit filed in the federal District Court in Connecticut seeks at least $5 million in damages for false advertising, deceptive labeling, breach of contract. The consumers claim that the sites used by Nestlé to collect its Poland Spring water are not true springs as defined by to the FDA . They say some of the sites used by the company are "phony" and "man-made." and that the original Poland Spring actually "ran dry nearly 50 years ago."
The lawsuit claims that Poland Spring Water products all contain ordinary groundwater that Poland Springs collects from wells it drilled in saturated plains or valleys where the water table is within a few feet of the earth’s surface. They also accuse Nestle of faking springs “by causing well water to flow artificially through pipes or plastic tubes into wetlands.” That would not be not real spring water.
The Press Herald reports that this is not the first such fraud case for Nestlé Waters in the US, saying they were sued 14 years ago on similar claims, another Nestlé Water brand was sued in Illinois in 2012, and the Poland Springs was sued in Connecticut in 2003 over advertising that claimed the water in Poland Spring came from a source deep in the woods of Maine when, it really came from a source located near a parking lot.
The FDA says spring water "shall be collected only at the spring or through a bore hole tapping the underground formation feeding the spring." This is important because consumers perceive that a natural spring produces a high quality, natural water is worth a premium price.
The US government's legal definition of spring water is found at Title 21 → Chapter I → Subchapter B → Part 165 → Subpart B → §165.110 and reads as follows:
(vi) The name of water derived from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the surface of the earth may be “spring water.” Spring water shall be collected only at the spring or through a bore hole tapping the underground formation feeding the spring. There shall be a natural force causing the water to flow to the surface through a natural orifice. The location of the spring shall be identified. Spring water collected with the use of an external force shall be from the same underground stratum as the spring, as shown by a measurable hydraulic connection using a hydrogeologically valid method between the bore hole and the natural spring, and shall have all the physical properties, before treatment, and be of the same composition and quality, as the water that flows naturally to the surface of the earth. If spring water is collected with the use of an external force, water must continue to flow naturally to the surface of the earth through the spring's natural orifice. Plants shall demonstrate, on request, to appropriate regulatory officials, using a hydrogeologically valid method, that an appropriate hydraulic connection exists between the natural orifice of the spring and the bore hole.
The original Poland Spring is or was located in Poland Spring,
Maine. The company produces 1 billion gallons of Poland Spring water
which bottled and labeled as such, according to the plaintiffs. Yet,
they say there is no way trhe spring could ever have produced that
amount of water.
According to its website, Poland Spring water is collected “before it emerges at the surface” as a spring. In a statement, Nestle adds “Poland Spring is 100% spring water” that meets FDA regulations.
Unless the plaintiffs withdraw the lawsuit, or the parties reach an out of court settlement, there will be a trial to determine the truth of the allegations. We will post updates here as they occur.