LOS ANGELES (CN) – A federal class action filed late Thursday accuses food and beverage giant Nestle of misleading consumers about the quality of its Pure Life bottled water, which a recent study found contains high levels of microplastics.
The 20-page complaint filed in Los Angeles says the Switzerland-based company “intentionally, negligently and recklessly concealed and omitted the truth” about the quality and purity of its Pure Life Purified water.
Lead plaintiff Cindy Baker, of Los Angeles, says Nestle’s “deceptive” marketing misrepresented the geographic origins and quality of its water. She says the company’s advertisements made consumers believe it was produced with high quality standards and had health benefits.
Nestle and its North American subsidiaries are named as defendants. Aly Sturm, a spokeswoman for the company, said they are aware of the claims but have not yet been served. “We have every confidence in the integrity of our brand and will defend ourselves vigorously,” Sturm said in a statement.
The complaint contends that Baker’s family purchased and drank Nestle Pure Life water bottles “on multiple occasions in the last year.”
She sent a letter to Nestle on March 21 asking them to stop the production and sale of Nestle Pure Life Purified drinking water and “pay full restitution to all affected California consumers,” according the complaint.
The putative class includes anyone who’s bought Pure Life water in the last four years.
Baker seeks an order certifying the class, damages, restitution and disgorgement. She also wants a judge to order Nestle to stop selling Pure Life drinking water in California, since the microplastics mean the water can’t truthfully be sold as “pure” and “purified,” according to her complaint.
She is represented by Christopher Hamner of Calabasas, California.
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 microplastic 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.
Up to 90 percent of microplastic particles consumed by humans can travel through the gut without a trace, according to a 2016 report by the European Food Safety Authority cited in the bottled water study.
The World Health Organization said it will launch a study on potential health risks associated with drinking bottled water containing microplastics.
Bottled water is the fastest-growing beverage market worldwide, valued at $147 billion a year, according to the Orb Media study.