Bottled mineral waters: a third of French brands resort to prohibited purification

Bottled mineral waters: a third of French brands resort to prohibited purification

The use of prohibited treatments to purify mineral waters, recognized Monday by the Nestlé group, is it larger? This practice would concern a third of brands in France, reported Tuesday The world And Radio Francea government source refuting any “health risk”.

Taking the lead, the world number one in mineral water Nestlé Waters revealed Monday in the press that it had used banned ultraviolet treatments and activated carbon filters on some of its mineral waters (Perrier, Vittel, Hépar and Contrex) to maintain “their food security” and to have informed the authorities in 2021.

The government then entrusted the General Inspectorate of Social Affairs (Igas) with a “mission to inspect natural mineral water and spring water packaging plants” in France, the conclusions of which, submitted in July 2022, were were disclosed Tuesday by Le Monde and Radio France. According to the Inspection’s conclusions, “the work revealed that nearly 30% of commercial designations undergo non-compliant processing,” write the two media. At the very least, because “the mission (of Igas) has no doubt about the fact that (…) all ore carriers are concerned”.

“No health risk”

A government source explains that “this report contains data subject to business secrecy” and is therefore not intended to be made public. But she assures “that no health risk linked to the quality of bottled water has been identified at this stage”. “The implementation of non-compliant treatments raises the question of the designation natural mineral water orspring water, to the extent that these waters are supposed to be naturally pure and to have undergone a limited number of treatments. But from a health point of view, the implementation of these treatments strengthens health security,” says this source.

In its investigation, Radio France nevertheless underlines that according to the Igas inspectors, if “overall”, the “level of conformity is high for bottled water, it would not be prudent to conclude that the health risk is perfectly controlled, particularly of microbiological risk “. A judicial investigation was opened – in Épinal according to Le Monde and Radio France – following “breaches of regulations” noted on Nestlé Waters sites by the ARS (regional health agencies), as part of the mission of Igas, specifies the government source.

The water giant is not the only one targeted by an investigation. The Alma group, which produces around thirty brands of bottled water in France including Cristaline, Saint-Yorre and Vichy Célestins, has confirmed that it is the subject of “legal proceedings” relating “to old and isolated facts specific to certain production sites”. Crystalline water “was never targeted,” he insisted. Originally, it was a former employee of the Alma company who reported “suspicious practices in a group factory” to the fraud repression (DGCCRF) at the end of 2020, and the latter then transmitted its investigations to the public prosecutor’s office. of Cusset (Allier).

Cusset prosecutor Éric Neveu must decide “by the end of the week” what follow-up to be given to this “very technical” file, for acts of “deception on the nature or quality of a commodity”, he said. he said Tuesday. Like Nestlé, Alma rules out any health risk for consumers. “All the checks by the health authorities showed that our waters were healthy,” assured Alma. At Nestlé Waters in Vittel (Vosges), a social and economic committee (CSE) met on Tuesday. “The company is not being transparent about this matter. (…) We demand accountability, we demand history,” declared Yannick Duffner, CFDT delegate of the site.

Natural and spring mineral waters are subject to strict regulations in France, resulting from a European directive. It prohibits any disinfection by ultraviolet or activated carbon filters. The practice of microfiltration is authorized up to a certain threshold. According to Le Monde and Radio France, Nestlé Waters had requested from the French government a relaxation to modify this threshold fixed from 0.8 microns (µm), and won its case in February 2023. Without Paris informing the authorities European, affirm these two media.

The government source indicated that the practice of microfiltration below 0.8 µm was authorized by prefectural decrees, “in view of the absence of a standard explicitly prohibiting” lowering this threshold.

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