FDA slams “Real Water” linked to liver failure; water plant manager MIA

Images of Real Water's "alkalized" products, which the FDA now says you should not drink or use.
Enlarge / Images of Real Water’s “alkalized” products, which the FDA now says you should not drink or use.

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday admonished Nevada-based company Real Water for being uncooperative in a multi-state health investigation linked to its “alkalized” water products. The company is accused of poisoning its customers, causing acute liver failure and other serious health problems in adults, children, and pets.

On March 16, the FDA and the Southern Nevada Health District announced that they were investigating cases of acute non-viral hepatitis (resulting in acute liver failure) in five infants and children, all of whom consumed the company’s alkaline water. The water was the only common link between the five children and infants. Since then, customers have filed several lawsuits making similar claims, including three Californian women who filed a federal lawsuit in Nevada March 22 seeking class-action status.

In an investigation update Wednesday, the FDA said its work has been hamstrung by Real Water’s failure to hand over critical records for two of its product facilities. Real Water has also failed to notify its distributors of the March 24 recall of all its water products, which are still being offered for sale by online retailers, the FDA noted. In addition, the FDA reported that the company is still promoting its products on social media, despite the recall and serious health claims.

Missing records, people

“Therefore, the FDA is reiterating that it is crucial that consumers, restaurants, distributors, and retailers not drink, cook with, sell, or serve ‘Real Water’ alkaline water,” the agency said in the update Wednesday. “Given a lack of cooperation by the firm, FDA investigators have been unable to complete investigations,” the update went on. The agency has twice issued the company a Demand for Records under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

But on Monday, a lawyer for Real Water may have provided an explanation for the company’s lack of cooperation. Real Water attorney Charles LoBello told District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez in a hearing that he could not find the company’s plant manager or lead technician, according to a report by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“There has been difficulty getting ahold of them,” LoBello said, asking the judge for at least two weeks to track them down.

Separately, another lawyer for the company, Laura Ungaro, contradicted the FDA’s recent update, telling the Review-Journal that the company is in fact cooperating with the investigation.

“I can’t imagine how they could say we’re not cooperating,” Ungaro of Craig Mueller & Associates told the outlet. “We’ve done everything but stand on our heads for them. Anything and everything they want, we’ve made available to them.”

Real Water President Brent Jones—who is also a former Nevada state Republican lawmaker—released a nearly two-minute video on the brand’s website last week, in which he offered the “deepest sympathy and concern over the events that led to the inquiry.” However, the website now displays a message saying that it is “down for maintenance” and only offers links to a recall press release, two water quality test reports, and Jones’ video on YouTube.

Real Water has not responded to multiple comment requests from Ars.