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Suit claims Nestle's Poland Spring Water is a 'colossal fraud'

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18 August 2017

Poland Spring Water is ''a colossal fraud perpetrated against American consumers'' by parent company Nestle, according to a lawsuit filed on Tuesday.

A Connecticut law firm has filed the class-action lawsuit in federal court in Connecticut, claiming the company's source for its Maine bottled water is not a spring. The suit, filed on behalf of 11 consumers, seeks at least $5 million in damages.

It alleges that the supposed ''100% natural spring water'' advertised on Poland Spring bottles is actually just common groundwater that doesn't meet the federal definitions.

It also claims that the real Poland Spring ''ran dry nearly 50 years ago'' and that Nestle is ''feigning'' compliance with the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) with ''phony, manmade 'springs'''.

The rights to the Maine spring's water were bought up by Perrier in 1980, and transferred to Nestle when it bought out Perrier in 1992.

But this whole time, the 325-page suit alleges, Nestle has actually been selling purified ordinary groundwater, not the spring water that ''signifies purity and high quality and commands a premium price''.

Despite claims that it draws its water from 'eight natural springs' in the Maine area, the suit says, ''Poland Spring Water products all contain ordinary groundwater that Defendant collects from wells it drilled in saturated plains or valleys where the water table is within a few feet of the earth's surface.

''The vast bulk of that groundwater is collected from Maine's most populous counties in southwestern Maine, only a short distance from the New Hampshire border.''

This does not comply with FDA regulations that say the water must either come from a spring or be siphoned off from the well that supplies that spring, the suit says.

It also claims that in order to fill up the ''nearly one billion gallons'' of water sold by the company, each of the eight springs would have to flow at 245 gallons per minute - something more akin to a geyser than a spring.

However, it says, there is no evidence that eight such geyser-springs exist; nor evidence that six of the alleged eight springs ever existed.

It also says that ''The 'spring' Defendant now claims exists in Poland Spring is at the bottom of a lake. It has never been proven to exist, and the evidence that Defendant itself filed with Maine regulators shows it does not exist.

''Because the Poland Spring is not a source of its products, Defendant's use of the "Poland Spring" brand name is unlawful.''

The suit says that the defendants in the class action suit have paid more than they would have otherwise due to the bottles' ''false and misleading labels''.

It is demanding ''damages to refunds of the unjustified premiums they have paid or, alternatively, to minimum statutory penalties under state false advertising laws''.

It also wants all Poland Spring bottles removed from shelves and re-labelled to not reference Poland Spring, '100% Natural Spring Water' or ''depicting misleading pristine mountain or forest spring scenes''.

Nestle refuted the claims, releasing a statement that read, ''The claims made in the lawsuit are without merit and an obvious attempt to manipulate the legal system for personal gain. Poland Spring is 100 per cent spring water.

''It meets the US 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.''

The case is not a first: Nestlé Waters, which owns Poland Spring, was sued 14 years ago on similar claims and another Nestlé Water brand was sued in a similar case in Illinois in 2012.

In 2003, the company was sued, also in Connecticut, because its advertising suggested that the water in Poland Spring came from a source deep in the woods of Maine when, in fact, the principal source was located near a parking lot. That suit was settled with Nestlé Waters offering about $8 million in consumer discounts and more than $2 million in charitable donations.

Nestlé, headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, owns a number of regional bottled water brands. The water originally came from Poland Spring, but now the company draws its water from sources throughout the state, including in Hollis and Fryeburg.

Nestle Waters settled a 2003 Connecticut lawsuit claiming Poland Spring's water was not sourced deep in the Maine woods.

That suit claimed that hydrogeologists hired by Nestle had found an alternative source for the water that stood over a former trash dump and underneath an illegal disposal site where human sewage was sprayed, W&WD reported in 2003.

Nestle did not admit fault, but agreed to pay $10 million in charity discounts and donations over the next five years.

The latest lawsuit comes as the Stamford, Connecticut-based company embarks on an expansion in Maine amid rising demand for bottled water.

Nestle is seeking state approval to source water from a public water district well in Lincoln.





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