Natural Foods Merchandiser

Eco Canteen ads spark plastic water bottle suit

The International Bottled Water Association filed a lawsuit against Eco Canteen, the stainless steel beverage container manufacturer, claiming the company's commercials contain false statements about bottled water from plastic drinking containers.

The lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District court in North Carolina, claims Eco Canteen has engaged in scare tactics to mislead the public, so consumers will buy Eco Canteen water bottles out of fear that plastic bottle products can leach chemicals that pose a health risk.

"Eco Canteen's commercials were egregiously incorrect and give the impression that people drinking bottled water need to be rushed to the emergency room," said IBWA spokesman Tom Lauria.

According to the lawsuit, the commercials aired nationwide nearly 1,000 times. Eco Canteen's commercials say plastic bottles "could be poisoning you or your family."

Standing in front of an emergency room, the commercial's narrator says plastic water bottles leach dangerous chemicals into bottled water and that some bottles leak synthetic estrogen, which has been linked to breast and prostate cancer.

The IBWA warned Eco Canteen to stop airing the commercials. Eco Canteen's lawyer said the commercials would be changed, Lauria said. But the ads continued, and during that time, Eco Canteen released a new advertisement with similar false information, he said.

IBWA is seeking an injunction on all advertisements with false or misleading information about bottled water. The organization wants Eco Canteen to run corrective ads for the same length of time as the original advertising campaign. The suit also calls for an unspecified amount of cash damages.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates bottled water under the same guidelines as municipal drinking water and has established detailed standards of quality and good manufacturing practice regulations specific to bottling drinking water.

Bottled water health concerns have surfaced in recent years because of chemical compound Bisphenol A. BPA is found in some reusable plastic containers, but according to the FDA, single-serving plastic water bottles in stores are not considered dangerous to human health.

IBWA officials say Eco Canteen, in its commercials, is discussing the dangers of BPA with an image of single-serving plastic water bottles in the background and that is unfair and confusing to the consumer. Lauria said the IBWA has never found BPA in any of its members' water.

"We hope that companies stay truthful in their advertising," he said. "We are proud of our bottled water. People want spring water and you can't just pipe it in."

Eco Canteen was not available for comment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta say BPA has been shown to have hormone-like effects on the developing reproductive system and neurobehavioral changes in animals, but scientists debate whether low exposure of BPA could cause these effects in humans.

The FDA first approved BPA in the early 1960s. In August 2008, the FDA updated its findings on BPA, declaring the chemical safe. But the administration is currently reviewing the chemical.

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