Belgian restaurants accused of selling ‘mineral water’ from the tap

Makers of Val brand claim their bottles were refilled from mains.

In a plot worthy of Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses, two Belgian restaurants are being sued for selling their customers “mineral water” that came from the tap.

The restaurants allegedly used mains water to fill bottles of Val, an award-winning Belgian mineral water, whose chief selling point is its natural purification process in the “Landenian sand layer of the region’s subsoil”.

In Belgium, the norm is for restaurants to refuse to provide tap water for their customers.

The legal claim, made by the mineral water’s producer, the Haacht brewery, says the alleged fraud was discovered by investigators after an analysis of the bottled water sold at the restaurants.

Executives at Haacht, which had an agreement to supply the restaurants, became suspicious of the low number of bottles being ordered since their deal was struck, and so undertook an analysis of those bottles that had been returned to them.

They found traces of tap water, but to make sure of their case, a bailiff was commissioned to seize a further nine bottles of Val before it was served to the restaurants’ customers.

According to a report on the legal complaint in the Belgian daily newspaper L’Echo, on arriving at the site the bailiff was told by the waiting staff that the customers were generally offered a choice of either Val mineral water or tap water, albeit served in the company’s branded bottles. The waiter later retracted his statement.

Haacht brewery wants to end its agreement with the restaurants, and is seeking compensation. The restaurants question the conditions of the seizure of the bottles, their storage conditions and analysis.

In a 1992 episode of Only Fools and Horses, Derek “Del Boy” Trotter sold Peckham Spring water, sourced from a hosepipe concealed by rocks on Grandad’s allotment, to a rapturous public.

Five years ago, Asda and Tesco were accused of selling bottled tap water, although they said it had undergone filtration and chlorine removal.

In 2004, Coca-Cola’s attempt to corner the bottled water market in the UK fell flat when it was discovered that its Dasani brand, said to be “as pure as bottled water gets”, was essentially tap water, sourced from a mains supply to its factory in Sidcup, Kent. Coca-Cola said the water had also undergone a filtration process.

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