French mineral water brands undergo purification treatments incompatible with regulations, reveals government probe.

A recent government investigation in France has uncovered that nearly one in three mineral water brands in the country undergoes purification treatments intended only for tap water, according to reports from daily Le Monde and broadcaster Radio France. This revelation comes in the wake of Nestlé’s acknowledgment that it treated water for major brands like Perrier and Vittel with ultraviolet light and active carbon filters.

A July 2022 report from the IGAS authority indicated that “close to 30 percent of brands undergo treatment not in line” with French regulations on mineral water. The report suggests that the 30% figure may underestimate the actual extent of the issue. French law, based on a European Union directive, prohibits the disinfection of mineral water, emphasizing that it should possess natural high quality before bottling.

Although there is no identified health risk associated with the quality of bottled water, the IGAS report, as cited by Radio France, suggests that it would be imprudent to conclude that health risks are entirely under control, especially in terms of microbiological risks.

The IGAS probe was initiated after Nestlé informed authorities in 2021 about treatments that exceeded regulations. Additionally, a whistleblower from the French firm Sources Alma, a producer of popular national brands such as Cristaline, reported “suspicious practices” to anti-fraud investigators in 2020. Prosecutors have opened an investigation into Alma, and a separate investigation into Nestlé is confirmed by the government source. Neither Alma nor Nestlé immediately responded to AFP’s request for comment.