France: 30% of bottled water brands lied about the purity of their product

Instead of selling pure mineral water, companies like Nestlé used chemical products to make it drinkable despite being labeled otherwise.

Thirty percent of bottled water brands in France carried out unfair and likely illegal practices with their consumers, according to an investigation by Le Monde and France Radio. Large companies like Nestlé promised mineral and natural water but sold a product which they treated for drinkability, a practice that goes against regulations in France.

The journalists' investigation arose when, in the report from a ministerial meeting of Elisabeth Borne's former cabinet, the French government authorized a modification of the regulations for the filtration of bottled water below 0.8 microns. These changes occurred as a result of several meetings with members of the management of Nestlé Waters, a division of the food giant that is dedicated to bottled water.

By following this first clue, it was revealed that several of the production companies in France were the subject of an investigation by the authorities for "non-compliant treatments" in their products. "Injections of iron sulfate and industrial CO2, microfiltration below authorized thresholds, but also mixtures of so-called 'mineral' or 'spring' water with mains water, the water that comes out of the tap" are cited in the articles. from Le Monde and France Radio.

According to the investigation, the Nestlé group resorted to these water purification methods because the springs where they drew the water suffered bacterial or chemical contamination. Nestlé took the blame a few days before the investigation was published. These water treatment practices were supported by the changes in regulations made by Elisabeth Borne's government after meetings with the Nestlé leadership.

The government was complicit

According to article 40 of the French Code of Criminal Procedure, any public official "who has knowledge of a crime or offense" must immediately inform the prosecutor. However, the government decided not to inform the courts or European authorities.

Deception of consumers

These practices would, however, still go against labeling regulations for bottled water and would affect about 30% of the brands available on the French market.

In France and in most European countries, water can be labeled and sold as "natural mineral water," such as Evan, Perrier or Vittel, which are also sold for export to the U.S. market, "spring water" and water made drinkable with chemical treatments.

The company used the latter method on water sold under the first two labels, thus breaking regulations. However, at first, no problems with water quality or health risks have been detected.