News Feature | April 10, 2019

Poland Spring Faces Lawsuit Over 'Colossal Fraud'

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga

In a potential indictment of the bottled water industry and the lofty promises it makes about its product, a recent lawsuit is accusing Poland Spring of lying to consumers.

“Over the years, if you’ve ever had Poland Spring water, you probably made the reasonable assumption that you were drinking water that was, in fact, from a spring,” The New York Times reported. “Instead, the class-action lawsuit contends that Nestlé Waters’s marketing and sales of what it advertises as ‘100% Natural Spring Water’ has been ‘a colossal fraud perpetrated against American consumers.’”

According to the lawsuit, which runs 325 pages and was filed in Connecticut, none of the water in a Poland Spring bottle could be described as “spring water.” Rather, it is groundwater that has been mislabeled. In recompense, the lawsuit seeks compensation for punitive damages and a permanent injunction that would keep Nestlé from continuing the alleged fraud.

For its part, Nestlé Waters argued that its claims are legitimate.

“The company insists that its product is 100 percent natural spring water, citing what it called an independent investigation last year by a law firm that ‘confirmed that Poland Spring Brand spring water sources meet all F.D.A. regulations defining spring water,’” per the Times.

While it will be sometime before this lawsuit is resolved, the claim against Poland Spring may be of particular interest for those in the drinking water treatment industry. Municipal water systems often face an uphill battle in convincing consumers to drink tap water, which they contend is perfectly clean and healthy, as opposed to purchasing bottled water.

“With the rise of wellness- and health-conscious consumers, the bottled water industry has seen an annual 8 percent increase over the past few years,” according to a Vox report about the lawsuit. “But even with all the fancy packaging, bottled water isn’t necessarily any better than tap water. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, tap water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency and the FDA is responsible for monitoring its labeling, while states have to regulate their bottled water companies — and one in five do not.”

The New York Times reported that Poland Spring’s sales were about $400 million in 2007 and have come in at around $300 million to $900 million annually every year for the last 11 years. And Nestlé Waters appears prepared to defend the brand’s claims that its labels are accurate. But if the lawsuit does succeed in exposing fraudulent claims by the company, perhaps more consumers will soon turn to their tap water.

To read more about treatment for the bottled water industry, visit Water Online’s Water & Wastewater Treatment For The Food & Beverage Industry Solutions Center.