Food: Mineral water not “natural” | WWN

Food: Mineral water not “natural” |  WWN

The mineral water bubbles so beautifully – with French brands we are no longer sure whether it is natural.

Photo: imago/joker

Nestlé Waters, a French branch of the international food group, and other well-known mineral water companies have covered up the fact that their supposedly natural water is pure for years Spring water was contaminated or chemically contaminated. And not only that: also that it has been filtered or treated, which is prohibited by law. This was the result of research by Radio France and the newspaper “Le Monde”.

The Food Fraud Unit then launched an investigation. Accordingly, the Alma Group had already reported to the authorities in 2021 that its water was slightly contaminated or bacteriologically contaminated in some places, so that it had to be filtered or chemically treated. The group is the market leader in France. It pumps up groundwater at 34 locations, fills it into plastic bottles and sells it cheaply under the brand name Cristaline.

When Nestlé found out about the behavior of its competitors, the company – the world market leader in mineral water with the Vittel, Contrex, Hépar and Perrier brands – went into forward defense: It reported itself because it had also filtered, disinfected or otherwise treated, but without to share it.

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Further investigation revealed that this also affects other brands. Together they account for more than a third of the French market. There were Bacteria and viruses killed with ultraviolet light, dirt particles removed by filters, a mineral composition that deviates from the norm corrected by activated carbon or other chemical interventions. If mineral water is slightly bubbling, factory-produced gas has sometimes been used to help. All of this is prohibited by law and constitutes fraud if the water continues to be sold as “natural mineral water.”

According to the law, mineral water must be natural and of high microbiological quality. Accordingly, it does not deserve this name if it is disinfected like tap water from the municipal network. Filters, carbon or other treatments are not compatible with the term “natural”. The mineral water companies point out that climate change, the melting of glaciers and the scarcity of groundwater are making it increasingly difficult to guarantee the mineral composition and purity of mineral water.

The state authorities, who were informed of the manipulation years ago by concerned company employees, must also have been receptive to these arguments. Only now have these grievances become known through the media.

“Here, the laws were knowingly violated and consumers were deceived,” says Ingrid Kragl, chairwoman of the consumer protection organization Foodwatch France. »A whole system of measures was taken to cover up these machinations. What’s particularly outrageous is that the authorities knew they were covering it up and that the fraudsters were not punished. On the contrary, the authorities are still accommodating the companies and are now approving microfilters.

In the meantime, Nestlé has reacted internally, abandoning several particularly problematic sources and reducing the sales volume of the Hépar and Contrex brands. For the naturally sparkling Perrier mineral water, which previously came from eight sources in the Gard department in southern France, only six are now in operation. But since some of this spring water cannot be sold unfiltered or untreated due to traces of dirt, bacteria, viruses or chemicals, a new brand with different aromatic flavors was created. It follows the well-known name, but foregoes the quality designation “natural spring water” and is more modestly called “water from Perrier”.

France is one of the ten countries with the highest consumption of bottled mineral water internationally. Per head of the population, 135 liters are drunk every year, i.e. about one liter every two days. This has its price: according to consumer advocates, bottled spring water is up to 100 times more expensive Drinking water from the tap that is constantly tested and meets strict standards.

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