Keurig Dr Pepper (KDP) announced last week it is voluntarily withdrawing bottles of its Peñafiel mineral water line, three weeks after a class action lawsuit accused the beverage conglomerate of willfully ignoring tests showing the drinks contain dangerous levels of arsenic.
The withdrawal affects only the unflavored varieties of Peñafiel, a Mexican import brand manufactured by KDP and sold in 600 mL and 1.5 L PET bottles. According to a press release, water quality tests from an independent laboratory commissioned by KDP found that the arsenic levels in Peñafiel exceeded the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) standards.
KDP noted that arsenic “is found in nature,” suggesting that aquifers can experience varying levels of arsenic contamination over time.
In an email to BevNET, KDP spokesperson Katie Gilroy said that the company suspended production of Peñafiel in early April and installed “enhanced filtration systems” at its production facilities. New product lines since have been tested by a third party and contain arsenic levels within the legal limit.
Gilroy added that Peñafiel is “a very small brand for [KDP] in the U.S.” and that the company does not have a timetable to resume distribution. The brand was previously available in chain retailers including Target and Walmart.
The withdrawal comes two months after a Consumer Reports story published in April revealed that Dr Pepper Snapple Group (DPSG) and the FDA were aware of the high arsenic levels in Peñafiel as early as March 2013. According to the report, inspectors dispatched to New Jersey food importer R.R. Importaciones found Peñafiel water containing 21.1 ppb (parts per billion) of arsenic — more than twice the legal limit of 10 ppb.
However, Gilroy told Consumer Reports that DPSG was not importing Peñafiel into the U.S. in March 2013 and that the products tested in New Jersey were illegal and intended for sale in Mexico only. At the time, the arsenic limit for bottled water in Mexico was 25 ppb, and therefore the products were within the legal limit. R.R. Importaciones president Rogelio Martinez told inspectors at the time that the products were for his personal use and not for sale.
On June 3, a class action complaint was filed in California federal court by John Pels. The suit accuses KDP of acting “irresponsibly and unlawfully” by selling products it allegedly knew was contaminated.