Lawsuit Over Microplastics in Nestle Water Thrown Out

LOS ANGELES (CN) – A lawsuit claiming food and beverage giant Nestle misled consumers about its water quality by allowing high levels of microplastics in its products was dismissed by a federal judge.

Los Angeles resident Cindy Baker claimed in her April 12, 2018, federal class action lawsuit that the Switzerland-based company intentionally and recklessly concealed facts about the quality and purity of its Pure Life purified water.

Nestle’s deceptive marketing misrepresented the geographic origins and quality of its water and added that consumers were made to believe that Nestle’s water offered them health benefits, the complaint said.

Baker also said Nestle broke a number of state and federal laws and sought an injunction barring the company from selling and advertising Pure Life water.

Nestle sought dismissal of the suit, saying in court papers that Baker’s complaint failed to allege sufficient facts, that her state law claims were preempted and the suit should be tossed under the primary jurisdiction doctrine, which applies when a claim should first be heard by an administrative body.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips said in a 7-page order Thursday that her concerns about water quality and microplastics in Nestle water should be addressed by the Food and Drug Administration, not by the courts.

“Congress has placed the issues raised in Plaintiff’s complaint—the labeling of bottled water as pure or purified—squarely within the jurisdiction of the FDA and depend on the FDA’s expertise,” the order said.

Phillips also wrote that Baker’s state law violation claims are expressly preempted by Section 403A of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which says no state can create a food safety standard that is not identical to federal requirements.

As part of the order, Phillips granted Baker leave to amend the complaint but cautioned that any amendments should not be frivolous or contain the same deficiencies as the first complaint.

Baker’s attorney Christopher Hamner said in a statement that an amended complaint will be filed.

A Nestle Waters North America spokesperson said in a statement that the company is pleased with the court’s ruling.

A study by State University of New York and Orb Media released in March found more than 90 percent of several top brands of bottled water are contaminated with tiny pieces of plastic known as microplastics.

The study examined 11 top bottled water brands from Asia, Europe, Africa and North America, and found 93 percent showed some level of microplastics contamination. Nestle bottles contained 10,000 pieces of microplastics per liter, the highest level of any brand examined according to the researchers.

Some of the microplastics the researchers found in Nestle’s water included polypropylene, nylon and polythylene terephthalate.

Nestle conducted its own testing and found “between zero and five plastic particles per liter,” according to Nestle’s head of quality Frederic de Bruyne. They were the only company from the study to publish results of its independent studies, according to Orb Media.

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