In August 2017, we wrote a piece on a Nestle/Poland Spring Class Action Lawsuit, in which it was alleged that there was no “spring” involved during the Poland Spring process. That same day, Nestle was nice enough to respond and give us their side of the story, and then updated us again months later when they filed a motion to dismiss. Well, today we are writing to report that this motion to dismiss was granted, and the Poland Spring Lawsuit is officially over! A spokesperson from Nestle reached out to us again, sending us the following press release:
Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA) was notified late yesterday that the United States District Court, District of Connecticut (“the Court”) has granted the Company’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit (Patane, et al. vs. Nestlé Waters North America, Case No. 3:17-cv-01381) filed against NWNA regarding the labeling of Poland Spring® Brand 100% Natural Spring Water.
“We are pleased with the Court’s decision to dismiss this meritless lawsuit,” said Charles Broll, Nestlé Waters Executive Vice President, and General Counsel. “Poland Spring® is what we have always said it is – 100% natural spring water, meeting all FDA regulations for spring water. Consumers can be confident in the honesty and accuracy of the labels on every bottle of Poland Spring®.”
NWNA and DLA Piper also announced the results of DLA Piper’s independent investigation into whether Poland Spring® Brand 100% Natural Spring Water meets the requirements of the federal spring water identity standard. Following an extensive review process, the investigation team at DLA Piper confirmed the determinations of state regulators that Poland Spring® is properly labeled as “spring water.”
“This report represents the independent findings of DLA Piper based on the totality of the information we collected and reviewed,” said Senator George Mitchell, chairman emeritus of DLA Piper. “DLA Piper has concluded that Poland Spring® Brand spring water sources satisfy the requirements of the federal spring water identity standard; and, as a result, the use of the term ‘spring water’ on Poland Spring® labels is both accurate and appropriate.”
The Investigation Team
DLA Piper conducted the investigation at the request of NWNA. NWNA did not impose any restrictions on the investigation beyond establishing its scope. The DLA Piper review panel consisted of George Mitchell, former Senate Majority Leader and U.S. Senator from Maine; Saxby Chambliss, former U.S. Senator from Georgia; and James Blanchard, former Governor of Michigan. The legal team that prepared the report has deep experience in regulatory affairs and independent investigations, and included George Karavetsos, partner at DLA Piper and former Director of the Federal Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations; Ignacio Sanchez, chair of DLA Piper’s Government Affairs Practice group; and John Merrigan, co-chair of DLA Piper’s Federal Law and Policy Practice group. The hydrogeology expert who worked on the report was Dr. David Boutt, professional hydrogeologist and associate professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Scope of Investigation
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the federal agency that regulates the labeling of bottled water, has adopted a regulation setting forth a series of requirements for a brand to be called spring water, known as the federal spring water identity standard. To understand whether the Poland Spring® Brand spring water sources meet the requirements of the federal standard, the DLA Piper investigation team sought to determine whether NWNA had received regulatory approvals based on certification requirements identical to the requirements in the federal standard. In addition, the team sought to discover whether the scientific documents submitted to the states during the certification process showed that the company complied with the requirements of the federal standard. Consistent with FDA Guidance, an affirmative finding on both points would confirm the determinations of state regulators that Poland Spring® is properly labeled as “spring water.”
During the investigative process, the DLA Piper team reviewed numerous requirements, regulations and hydrogeologic evidence including:
• NWNA’s compliance with the requirements of the federal identity standard with respect to Poland Spring® Brand spring water sources;
• The certification requirements applied by regulators in Maine and other states to determine whether the requirements they applied included requirements identical to the federal identity standard; and
• The extensive hydrogeologic analyses, conducted by licensed professional independent experts, that led regulators in Maine and other states to approve Poland Spring® Brand spring water sources as compliant with the federal identity standard.
Dr. Boutt then made an independent scientific determination of whether the hydrogeologic evidence provided to state regulators in support of spring water source approvals has been scientifically sound and whether this evidence has addressed the requirements of the federal spring water identity standard. Dr. Boutt visited all eight Poland Spring® Brand spring water source locations in Maine, accompanied by members of the DLA review panel, to examine the spring water production sites and reviewed the hydrogeologic evidence presented to regulators. DLA Piper also interviewed NWNA employees and independent professionals, including professional hydrogeologists who participated in producing scientific analyses submitted in support of the regulatory approvals.
Findings of Study
Below is a summary of the DLA Piper report’s three main conclusions:
1. State Regulators’ Approvals of Poland Spring® Brand Spring Water Sources are Based on Requirements Identical to the Federal Spring Water Identity Standard Requirements
Since March 1992, when NWNA purchased the Poland Spring Corporation, NWNA has obtained regulatory approvals from Maine for every source of Poland Spring® Brand 100% Natural Spring Water confirming that Poland Spring® bottled water meets the requirements of the federal spring water identity standard. Maine’s regulator – the Drinking Water Program (DWP) – has based its regulatory approvals of the spring water sources for Poland Spring® on extensive scientific documentation, including evidence presented in hydrogeologic reports prepared by independent hydrogeologists licensed by the State of Maine (supported by certified laboratory testing). Maine’s DWP has reconfirmed in letters dated April 15, 2014, and August 28, 2017, that each of the Poland Spring® Brand spring water sources satisfies the requirements of the federal identity standard.
While Maine, applying the FDA spring water identity regulation, is the primary regulator of Poland Spring® Brand spring water sources, all of which are located in Maine, these spring water approvals have been ratified by similar regulatory approvals issued by other states where Poland Spring® is sold, transported, bottled, or consumed, including New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
“Applying FDA’s own directives about what constitutes compliance with the federal spring water identity standard to the findings of our team’s independent review of Poland Spring® spring water sources leaves no doubt that all of Poland Spring®’s state approvals are based on requirements that are identical to FDA’s spring water identity standard,” said George Karavetsos, partner at DLA Piper and former Director of the Federal Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations.
2. NWNA has Continuously Implemented a Rigorous Program to Assure Compliance with Federal Identity Standard Requirements
DLA Piper’s review of relevant data has confirmed that NWNA has consistently maintained a rigorous compliance program to ensure that the spring water sources for Poland Spring® meet all state and federal regulations since it purchased the Poland Spring Corporation.
3. Hydrogeologic Analyses Confirm Regulatory Approvals of Spring Water Sources for Poland Spring® Satisfy all of the Requirements of the Federal Spring Water Identity Standard
To meet the federal definition of spring water, each borehole extraction point must be hydraulically connected to an identified spring location where water naturally comes to the surface of the earth; the spring water must be geochemically the same as borehole-extracted spring water and the springs must continue to flow during operations at the site.
Dr. Boutt’s review of the reports on the hydrogeologic characterization of the spring water sources for Poland Spring® submitted to state regulators, as well as his analysis at all eight sites, agreed with the decisions of the state regulators that these sources meet the federal definition of spring water.
“The hydrogeologic reports that NWNA provided to the state regulators represent clear and conclusive evidence that each of the Poland Spring® spring sources is in compliance with the federal definition of spring water,” said Dr. Boutt.
“We enlisted the team at DLA Piper to answer one question, without conditions: Is Poland Spring what we say it is? We did so, before any of the class action litigation matters were filed against us, because of our deep commitment to ensuring full compliance with laws and regulations,” said Charles Broll, Nestlé Waters Executive Vice President and General Counsel. “We are pleased — but not surprised — with their conclusion that validates that Poland Spring® Brand spring water is appropriately labeled under the applicable legal and regulatory framework.”
The full report can be accessed below:
Editor’s note on the Poland Spring Class Action Lawsuit:
This piece is written about The Poland Spring class action. If you are considered eligible to be among the class of consumers described in the suit, you may eventually be able to participate in receiving any compensation the court may award.
If you have any questions concerning the Poland Spring Lawsuit, or the process therein, or wish to speak with a legal expert on the matter, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’d be happy to help you take a step in the right direction, and better enable you to gather information about this consumer class action. If interested, please send an email to Outreach@ConsiderTheConsumer.com, find us on Twitter or Facebook, or even connect with us directly on our website! We look forward to hearing from you all.