French watchdog organisation Foodwatch has filed complaints with a Paris court against Nestlé and Sources Alma for “illegally” treating their bottled mineral water.

The organisation has filed the complaints today (21 February) at the Paris Judicial Court, alleging nine offences by the companies combined.

Foodwatch said Nestlé Waters – the Swiss giant’s bottled-water arm – and Sources Alma “intentionally” “illegally treated their bottled waters and then sold them without informing consumers”.

The group said: “This is a massive fraud for which Nestlé Waters and the Sources Alma group but also the French state will have to answer”.

Last month, Nestlé admitted to breaching regulations in France in the way it treats bottled mineral water against contamination.

The company used different purification treatments on products labelled as “mineral water”, including those sold under brands such as Perrier and Vittel.

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According to Le Monde, Nestlé has reportedly used disinfectants “due to sporadic bacterial or chemical contamination.”

However, French law does not permit the use of purification techniques on products labelled as ‘spring’ or ‘mineral’ water, as they are supposed to come from preserved underground resources and already safe to drink when they emerge from the well, Le Monde reported.

At the start of February, legal representatives in France launched an investigation into Nestlé’s treatment of its mineral bottled waters.

Speaking to Agence-France Presse earlier this month, local prosecutor Frédéric Nahon said the inquiry was initiated after it received a complaint from the national health regulator, Agence Régionale de Santé.

Foodwatch said today it “also questions the complacency of France [over] this affair for several years”.

The NGO said the French government “should have alerted the European authorities and other [countries] importing this water”.

Foodwatch said “a third of the water sold in France has thus undergone non-compliant treatments”.

Just Drinks has contacted Nestlé and Sources Alma to comment on the complaints.

In a statement, Sources Alma said: “Sources Alma has always marketed to its consumers waters of impeccable quality, recognised by all. Its imperative has always been to guarantee the entire population water of quality, microbiologically safe, of exclusively underground origin, and protected against the risks of pollution in accordance with current regulations.

“Sources Alma disputes the existence of unauthorised treatments. It is not implicated in bacteriological or chemical contamination issues.

“Checks carried out by health authorities confirm that all waters produced in France by Sources Alma are compliant and that the health and food safety of these waters has never been questioned.”

Me François Lafforgue, Foodwatch’s lawyer said, “Nestlé Waters and Sources Alma made their consumers believe that they were selling them natural mineral water, in accordance with what this implies in terms of health benefits and nutritional qualities, while they sold them, in fact, formerly contaminated water that had been treated illegally.”

Nestlé told Just Drinks at the end of January: “We … used activated carbon filters and ultraviolet systems which, though permitted by other jurisdictions, are not in line with applicable French natural mineral water regulations”.

The company said it “proactively” reported this to the French authorities in 2021 and “presented them with several options to ensure compliance moving forward”.

Nestlé added: “The French authorities have validated our use of this finer microfilter as consistent with the applicable regulatory framework.”