By Nurit Roth

Two identical lawsuits were filed Tuesday against mineral water bottlers Mayanot Eden, which markets the Mei Eden brand, and Neviot. Both suits, each of which seeks NIS 32 billion in damages, were submitted to the Tel Aviv District Court. The plaintiffs asked the court to certify the suits as class actions. They say that the companies’ 19.8-liter plastic water cooler jugs contain dangerously high levels of cancer-causing phenols.

In their complaints, the plaintiffs accused the companies of misleading consumers by “obscuring the fact that the jugs release carcinogens into the water that have serious consequences” to human health. Furthermore, the plaintiffs argued, Mei Eden and Neviot engage in misleading advertising by stating that their water is “of a quality and nature that is contrary to what [actually] exists,” and they demand that the bottlers place a warning on the jugs.

In a response, Neviot said it “rejected outright” the claims made in “this baseless complaint.” It said there were “numerous errors” in the data presented by the plaintiffs to support their claims, including in the ways in which the tests were conducted and the data were calculated and presented.

“Neviot meets all standards, including those referred to in the complaint and stresses that there is no problem or health concern,” the response continued, citing supporting evidence from Israeli and foreign experts. “Government authorities in countries around the world have unequivocally determined that based on scientific information drinking water from containers of the type used by Neviot is absolutely safe.”

Mayanot Eden essentially said the same thing in its response and also noted that all its products “are of [high] quality and absolutely safe” and “meet all relevant standards for natural mineral water.” The company also noted that it has every intention of taking vigorous action against the suit.

The plaintiffs have had water coolers in their homes with water from Mayanot Eden and Neviot. They say that they had thought the companies’ bottled water was healthier and cleaner than tap water until they learned, as the complaint states, that the jugs release phenols, including Phenol A, that pose a health risk to those who drink the water from it. An expert opinion attached to the complaint states that water containing phenols is a health hazard.

The plaintiffs said in the complaint that phenols cause abnormal male sexual development, early onset of puberty in girls, attention deficit disorders, hyperactivity, obesity, diabetes, decreased sperm counts and various types of cancer. The plaintiffs estimated that 4 million people in Israel have been harmed over the years by the companies’ products and said that each affected consumer is entitled to NIS 8,000 in compensation, resulting in cumulative damages of NIS 32 billion.