Nestlé, the world's largest food and beverage company, has admitted to treating bottled water products for contaminants in violation of French laws. The top bottled water seller, Nestlé Waters, confessed to using illegal "food safety" treatments such as ultraviolet light and active carbon filters on its products, including Perrier and Vittel, to ensure food safety.
The company stated that it had notified French authorities of the process in 2021 but did not specify when it stopped treating water under certain brands.
French law prohibits disinfectant treatment of mineral waters, which are meant to be safe to drink directly from their sources. Nestlé attributed the need for treatments to changes in the environment around its sources.
Since stopping the treatments, Nestlé has suspended production at some wells in eastern France due to climate hazards, impacting Hepar and Contrex water brands.
The scandal originated in 2020 when an employee reported the illegal practices at the Sources Alma factory. An investigation revealed one-third of bottled water brands did not comply with regulations, with potential for more concealed practices. Despite being informed, the French government did not take action until 2021.
Legal inquiries are ongoing, with a preliminary investigation opened in July 2023, suggesting potential charges for deception.