News 21.02.2024

Massive fraud: foodwatch takes water companies to court

  • Misleading product labelling
  • Transparency and food safety

A recent joint investigation from Radio France and Le Monde exposed a massive scandal in the bottled water industry in France. Companies Nestlé Waters and Sources Alma used illegal treatments in products such as Vittel, Hépar, Perrier and Cristaline. Consumers have been deceived by this massive fraud. foodwatch goes to court. 

The investigation reveals that companies illegally treated their mineral water. The beverage companies disinfected contaminated mineral water using illegal methods, such as UV or carbon filters, and Sources Alma even bottled tap water presenting it as mineral water.  A third of the water sold in France is alleged to have undergone non-compliant treatment, including well-known brands such as Perrier, Vichy, Vittel and Cristaline.  

Such practices not only violate regulations on mineral water, but also mislead consumers, who trust and pay a premium for the purity and natural quality of these products. 

Nobody is above the law - not even Nestlé 

On Wednesday 21 February, foodwatch France filed a complaint for nine offences with the Paris Magistrates' Court, after the companies illegally processed their bottled waters and sold them without informing consumers. All the elements of a fraud are present: a clear breach of regulations, the deception of consumers, economic gains, and the intent to deceive since the companies concealed the filtration processes from the inspectors and were careful not to give information to consumers or retailers. The beverage companies were able to sell their non-compliant products for years, in France and probably also in other countries of the European internal market. 

The lawsuit aims to shed light on these untransparent practices and hold those who are responsible into account – including multinational companies who cannot bypass the law. 

The scandal is not just about the violation of food safety regulations; it's a stark example of the opacity in the agri-food sector. Nobody is above the law - not even a multinational like Nestlé, which is why we are filing a lawsuit today.
Ingrid Kragl foodwatch France

EU Commission must act against food fraud  

Because the designation "natural mineral water" is governed by a strict European directive, this significant fraud raises numerous questions about the implementation of the current legal provisions. 

foodwatch has written to the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, to ask that full transparency is made about the response of the French authorities to the fraud, in particular its failure to alert the European Commission and other Member States despite knowing about it since 2021.  

foodwatch is also asking the European Commission to take follow-up measures to ensure that such situation cannot happen again - in France and in other countries.  

Need for transparency in the food industry 

This scandal underscores the need for stricter regulatory enforcement and transparency in the food industry and shows once again that consumer protection and environmental stewardship should not rely solely on exposure work from whistleblowers and investigative journalists. As millions of consumers have potentially been misled, the demand for clear and honest information about food products has never been more critical. 

foodwatch will continue to promote consumer rights and advocate for more stringent controls, transparent information, and effective penalties for those who disregard food safety regulatory obligations. Join us in this fight for transparency and accountability in the food industry and sign the French petition:

“Stop food scandals: More controls, transparency and sanctions!”