According to a new class-action lawsuit, Nestlé’s Poland Spring Natural Spring Water isn’t spring water at all.
The lawsuit, filed last month in Connecticut, claims Nestlé’s water is “a colossal fraud.” Instead of using natural spring water, the lawsuit alleges the company bottles and sells groundwater.
“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 states. “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.”
However, spring water doesn’t have to be literally collected at a spring to be called “spring water.” According to the Food and Drug Administration, spring water must come from an underground source and flow naturally to the earth’s surface. So technically they can pump the water out from a hole in the ground and still call it “spring water.”
A spokeswoman for Nestlé Waters North America said their water meets all federal and state guidelines for spring water.
“Poland Spring is 100 percent spring water,” the spokeswoman said in an email. “The claims made in the lawsuit are without merit and an obvious attempt to manipulate the legal system for personal gain.”
Poland Springs’ website claims the water comes from “some pretty incredible springs — eight of them to be exact,” and features a map of the springs which they “carefully select based on such things as geologic formation, mineral composition, quality, and taste,” it says.
On the other hand, the lawsuit claims there’s no “historical evidence for six of [Nestle’s] alleged springs, and two are former springs that no longer exist.”
Instead, it says, “the labels depict pristine scenes of water flowing down a verdant hillside or a forest pond when, in fact, the vast bulk of the water is drawn from wells in low-lying populated areas near potential sources of contamination.”
Unfortunately, the definition of what really counts as spring water isn’t accurate. According to Peter Gleick, a scientist and president emeritus of the Pacific Institute, a non-profit policy research center in Oakland, Calif., that’s one of the biggest issues at hand.
“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,” Gleick said. “No one is really looking over the shoulders of the bottled water companies.”
Bottled water sales are also on the rise as Americans cut back on sugary drinks. Just last year, annual sales of bottled water grew 10 percent to $16 billion, surpassing sales of carbonated sodas for the first time.
The class-action lawsuit led by Vermont resident Mark J. Patane has 11 plaintiffs. Patane claims he spent hundreds of dollars buying Poland Spring water since 2003.
“Had he known that Poland Spring Water was ordinary groundwater,” the complaint says, “he would have consumed lower cost bottled water products or filtered tap water.”