Almost a third of French bottled water brands use banned purification methods

Almost one in three mineral water brands in France undergoes purification treatment supposed to be used only on tap water, media reported on Tuesday, citing a government probe.

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The revelations from daily Le Monde and broadcaster Radio France follow Nestlé’s admission that it treated water for its major brands, including Perrier and Vittel, with ultraviolet light and active carbon filters.

A July 2022 report by the IGAS authority found that “close to 30 percent of brands undergo treatment not in line” with French regulation on mineral water, the outlets wrote.

The report “was clear that the 30-percent figure underestimates the phenomenon”, they added.

French law based on a European Union directive bars disinfection of mineral water, which is supposed to be of naturally high quality before bottling.

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IGAS did not immediately react to AFP’s request for comment, while a government source said the report contained “data covered by business confidentiality”.

“No health risk linked to the quality of bottled water has so far been identified,” the source added.

But “it would not be prudent to conclude that health risks are completely under control, especially microbiological risks”, according to a passage from the IGAS report cited by Radio France.

The government source said the IGAS probe was launched after Nestlé told authorities in 2021 it was using treatments that overstepped regulations.

A whistleblower who had worked at French firm Sources Alma, which produces popular national brands including Cristaline, also told anti-fraud investigators about “suspicious practices” in 2020, Le Monde and Radio France reported.

Prosecutors have opened an investigation into Alma, the two media reported, while the government source confirmed to AFP there is a separate investigation into Nestlé.

Alma did not immediately respond to AFP’s request for comment.


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