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A federal judge revived a class-action lawsuit against Poland Spring for allegedly selling bottled water that is not actually from a spring.
The judge had dismissed the case last year, but the the plaintiffs amended their complaint sufficiently to proceed against the company for alleged false advertising in eight Eastern states where it sells water. Poland Spring is owned by Connecticut-based Nestle Waters North America.
Nestle says the lawsuit is "meritless," and contends its spring water labels meet all legal requirements. The bigger issue is, however, what does "spring water" really mean?
Question Springs Eternal
It has been one of the most controversial questions in the bottled water business. And it is really big business.
According to reports, Americans spend about $18 billion on bottled water each year. Poland Spring sells about 1 billion gallons to 13 million people annually.
The company says it no longer uses the original Poland Spring source, but draws the same water to fill its bottles. The plaintiffs says the company created six "phony, man-made 'springs,'" to deliver its product.
On its website, Poland Spring says "spring water" is water from an underground source that flows naturally to the surface of the earth at an identified location. That's also what the Food and Drug Administration said.
Spring Water FAQs
The FDA requirements include:
Spring water may be collected with an external force, such as a pump. But the water must continue to flow naturally to the natural opening at the surface.
Poland Spring says that the debate over "spring water" ended 20 years ago, when the FDA issued its regulations. The company says it started in 1845, but "a lot has changed" since then.