On March 16, the FDA and the Southern Nevada Health District announced that they were looking into cases of acute non-viral hepatitis in five young children, which were reported to the health district in November last year. All the children had to be hospitalized but had since recovered.
Acute non-viral hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can result in liver failure and liver cancer. It is caused by exposure to toxins, drinking too much alcohol or autoimmune disease. Symptoms include yellowing of the skin or eyes, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and darkening of urine.
The FDA's initial investigation suggested that the product likely caused hepatitis in the children. The agency explained that all children drank the company's alkaline water, which so far was the only common link between them.
The health district received six more reports involving less severe symptoms, including nausea, fatigue, vomiting and loss of appetite. Half of these were children while the rest were adults. The health district said that it continues to monitor for hepatitis cases and reiterated the FDA's recommendation to stop drinking the alkaline water.
On March 24, Real Water recalled all of its drinking water products nationwide.
In an update on March 26, the FDA slammed Real Water for being uncooperative. The agency said that it was unable to complete its investigation of the company's Nevada and Arizona facilities due to the firm's failure to hand over requested records.
The FDA also found that online retailers still sold the company's alkaline water even after the product had been recalled. A later audit by the agency showed that Real Water did not notify its distributors of the product recall. Additionally, the company still promoted the product on social media even after its March 24 announcement.
In a court hearing on March 29, Real Water attorney Charles LoBello provided an explanation for the company's perceived lack of cooperation. He explained that the company's plant manager and lead technician were missing, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. He then asked District Judge Elizabeth Gonzales to give his camp at least a week to track them down.
Laura Ungaro, another Real Water attorney, disputed FDA's allegation that the firm had been uncooperative. She told the Review-Journal that Real Water had been compliant with the FDA's requests.
"I can't imagine how they could say we're not cooperating," Ungaro said. "We've done everything but stand on our heads for them. Anything and everything they want, we've made available to them."
Real Water is facing multiple lawsuits alleging that the company's alkaline water caused liver disease. On March 16, Las Vegas attorney Will Kemp filed a civil negligence and deceptive trade practices case, which alleged that Real Water caused the five children's hepatitis.
Kemp filed another lawsuit on March 22 on behalf of Myles Hunwardsen and four other people. The suit argued that the company's alkaline water caused Hunwardsen's liver failure in September 2019.
"Real Water is believed to be the cause of an extraordinary number of liver damage cases involving Nevada residents," the lawsuit read.
A class-action case was also brought to court on March 22 on behalf of three California women and anyone who had been injured after consuming Real Water for personal, family or household use. The case accused the company of engaging in deceptive trade practices and false advertising.
Another class-action lawsuit similarly alleged that Real Water advertised its alkaline water product as "the healthiest water today. In reality, it has dangerous levels of toxins in it, making it unsafe and dangerous to human life." (Related: Don't drink the water: Study warns that bottled water may contain toxic microplastics.)
Real Water marketed its alkaline water as premium drinking water with detoxifying properties. The product was packaged with labels calling it "alkalized" and "infused with negative ions." According to Kemp's court filings, the water was drawn from Las Vegas' public tap water supply.
Read more stories about harmful consumer products at CleanFoodWatch.com.