News 04.04.2024

New revelations: Health risks of Nestlé’s bottled water

  • Misleading product labelling
  • Transparency and food safety

According to new information, springs supplying several of Nestlé's brands were significantly contaminated. Nestlé's bottled waters must be recalled immediately!

UPDATE (24/04/24):

Nestlé destroys significant number of bottled waters: company describes a measure “out of precaution”, when information suggests contamination issue.  

According to press reports published in France today, the group Nestlé has destroyed a part of its production of bottled water, following a deterioration of the quality of the waters from one of its wells, in the French region of Gard. The company’s communication highlights a measure taken ‘out of precaution’ in the context of heavy rains that are said to have temporarily altered the water quality of the sources.  

Information received by foodwatch however indicates that the measure is a direct consequence of an order from the Gard’s Prefect (the French highest authority at regional level). This new revelation raises further questions about the health risks linked to Nestlé’s waters, after such health risks were already highlighted by the French Agency for Health and Safety (ANSES) and largely ignored by the French authorities.  

Today, journalists from Radio France and Le Monde have revealed further information about the bottled water scandal in France. According to the new information released, the water concerned presented a health risk, and the French authorities knew about it. The French National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (Anses) warned the government about it last October. In their report, the agency questioned whether the water was safe to drink, pointing out problematic contamination, including faecal matter or Escherichia coli bacteria "in sometimes high concentrations", pesticides, and other pollutants such as PFAS. This situation was made possible, because the water was illegally processed, which changed its natural makeup. The water was then sold without any warning to consumers.

Since Anses stresses an "insufficient level of confidence" to "guarantee the health quality of finished products", foodwatch demands that the bottled water needs to be taken off the shelves and that all importing countries are informed as soon as possible.

Nestlé's springs plagued by severe contamination

According to the Anses report obtained by the journalists, springs supplying several of Nestlé's brands (including Hépar, Perrier, and Vittel) were significantly contaminated. In particular, the Perrier brand's water sources are almost entirely contaminated with chemicals.

Why have these warnings from the Anses been ignored by the French authorities since last October? What health risks have we been exposed to, and for how long? Why has Nestlé Waters been able to continue marketing its fraudulent waters? Why hasn't the French government communicated anything to consumers, or even told the European Commission? According to foodwatch, which has lodged a complaint against Nestlé Waters and Sources Alma on nine counts of massive fraud, the lack of transparency is not only on the part of Nestlé Waters and Sources Alma, but also of the French authorities, and it raises several serious questions.

Nestlé's bottled waters must be recalled, and the other Member States of the EU must be informed now! The European Water Directive is crystal clear: When mineral water is polluted, there is no doubt that bottling and marketing must be suspended.
Ingrid Kragl Information Director at foodwatch and an expert on food fraud

French and EU authorities must act now!

In the absence of any communication from the French government, foodwatch asked Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for Health, to act in a letter dated 19 February. With a successful result: On 30 April, France will have to explain itself towards the other Member States at a meeting of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (Scopaff). Also at the request of foodwatch, the European Commission is currently carrying out an audit of the French authorities and verifying on the spot how France has managed this affair.

To date, no information has appeared on the European alert network, RASFF - which enables other EU countries and consumers to be informed - due to the lack of information on the health risks communicated by France. Today's revelations by journalists could perhaps change this situation and shed light on the situation in countries having imported French bottled waters. The Commission is asking all the other Member States to step up their controls on natural mineral waters and to pass on this information. 

Stricter food safety regulations are needed

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. 

Over 69,000 people have already signed a French petition, which is being sent to ministers Bruno Le Maire and Marc Fesneau every day. Join us in this fight for transparency and accountability in the food industry and sign the petition too.

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