A proposed class action claims The Wonderful Company has failed to warn consumers that its so-called “natural” Fiji bottled water is contaminated with potentially harmful microplastics.
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According to the 16-page lawsuit, these microparticles—which are typically made from polypropylene, polyethylene, polystyrene and other synthetic substances—are produced during the manufacturing process or as plastic breaks down over time, and a recent study indicates that they could be present in bottled water in much higher amounts than previously thought.
The lawsuit claims Los Angeles-based The Wonderful Company—which is behind brands such as POM Wonderful, Wonderful Halos and Wonderful Pistachios—has misled consumers by marketing Fiji bottled water as “Natural Artesian Water” despite knowing that no reasonable consumer would consider a bottled water product containing microplastics to be “natural.” Per the case, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers the term “natural” to mean that no synthetic substances have been added to a food or beverage that a consumer would not expect to be included in it.
The complaint argues that, in any case, “copious research has shown the deleterious effects of plastic bottles on both the environment and human health, yet [the Wonderful Company] continues to bottle its water in plastic and continues to label the [p]roducts as [n]atural.”
Studies reveal widespread microplastic contamination in bottled water
The Fiji bottled water lawsuit cites a 2018 study commissioned by independent journalism group Orb Media that showed signs of microplastic contamination in 93 percent of its test samples—259 individual water bottles across 11 brands. The researchers found that bottled water contained, on average, almost twice as much microplastic contamination as tap water.
Another 2018 study, commissioned by nonprofit organization The Story of Stuff Project, tested 19 bottled water brands and found that Fiji was among the brands with the highest levels of microplastic contamination.
Then, on January 8 of this year, researchers from Columbia University and Rutgers University presented new technology that allowed them to count and study the microscopic particles in bottled water. While Orb Media’s 2018 analysis had estimated that a typical liter of bottled water contained an average of 325 microplastic particles, the 2024 study found approximately 240,000 detectable plastic fragments per liter, if not more—or 10 to 100 times more than previously thought.
Although the risks posed by widespread exposure to microplastics “are not yet fully understood,” as the lawsuit points out, the researchers behind the latest study hope the innovative new technology will facilitate further exploration of the potential effects on human health and the environment.
Potential health impacts
As the case tells it, research indicates that ingestion of microplastics can lead to cardiovascular issues and gastrointestinal problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome, and may also have an adverse effect on hormonal balance and reproductive function. After being absorbed, microplastics may be transported through the blood and can accumulate in the kidney, liver and other organs, the complaint shares.
“Moreover, Microplastics exhibit a ‘Trojan Horse’ effect by absorbing and transporting various environmental pollutants,” the filing adds.
Though the consequences of exposure to humans are still largely unstudied, the toxic effects of microplastics on marine life are well-documented, the suit asserts. What’s more, recent research on mice has also shown potential negative effects on the gut bacteria in mammals, the case says.
Who’s covered by the lawsuit?
The case looks to represent anyone in the United States who purchased Fiji bottled water in the past five years.
I’ve bought Fiji bottled water. How do I join the lawsuit?