Public health officials are searching for Arizonans who may have been sickened by bottled water linked to at least one death and more than a dozen cases of liver damage, including among infants and children.
Real Water — also known as Re²al Water, Real Alkalized Water and Real Alkalized Water Concentrate — was distributed across the country from facilities in Mesa and Henderson, Nevada, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
AffinityLifestyles.com Inc. billed its “premium alkalized” bottled water as “the healthiest drinking water today,” but the FDA said the product “may have become contaminated with filth” while being prepared or stored in unsanitary conditions and faulted the company for failing to meet standards for food safety and ingredient labeling.
Nevada public health authorities identified five children, ages 7 months to 5 years, who suffered acute liver failure between November and December 2020 after drinking Real Water.
At least 11 adults were found to have been hospitalized with acute non-viral hepatitis, including a woman with underlying medical conditions who died, while others reported less serious symptoms, such as tiredness, vomiting, nausea and loss of appetite, Nevada officials said. Real Water was the only known common link among them, the FDA said.
The liver inflammation was not caused by the viruses that lead to hepatitis A, B or C.
Civil lawsuits claim some illnesses may have been caused as far back as 2018. Among the plaintiffs were an Ultimate Fighting Championship star, a woman whose dog died and a young man who had to receive an emergency liver transplant.
Company President Brent Jones is a former Nevada Republican lawmaker who was investigated in an extortion case and later sued by a former employee who accused him of forcing her to watch videos related to the Church of Scientology, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He was not criminally charged in the extortion case and denied the allegations in the discrimination lawsuit.
Last year, the Arizona water company hired a former strip-club promoter and timeshare salesman with no experience in chemistry as its lead technician overseeing water testing after a couple of hours of training from Jones’ son, according to a lawsuit deposition reported by the Review-Journal.
The employee’s dog started throwing up and was diagnosed with a liver condition after drinking Real Water, the employee testified. At one point, the employee guessed the amount of liquid concentrate he should put in the water, CBS News reported.
“We’d like to express our deepest sympathy and concern,” Jones said in a video posted in March after the FDA began investigating. “You should never have any worry about the safety of any of our products. I want to personally apologize to all of our customers, and I assure you that the lessons learned from this will drive further improvement in the brand. … Safety will always be our top priority.”
The company issued a recall of all its drinking water and concentrate: 1.5 liters, 1 liter, 500 ml and 1-gallon ready-to-drink bottles that were sold in retail stores and online, 5-gallon home and office delivery bottles and 4-ounce bottles of concentrate sold on its website. Anyone with the recalled product should discard it immediately and not drink, cook with, sell or serve it, the FDA said.
A federal judge signed an agreement last week requiring Real Water to shut down until the company hires a qualified independent expert to inspect its facilities, ensure compliance with safety and health regulations and receive authorization from the FDA.
Arizona has not determined any cases related to Real Water so far, but health authorities are on the lookout.
The Maricopa County departments of Public Health and Environmental Services have been working closely with the Arizona Department of Health Services, FDA and Nevada officials “to look for any cases of non-infectious hepatitis related to consuming Real Water in Maricopa County,” the Maricopa County website states. “No cases have been identified to date.”
The county asks anyone who has experienced symptoms of acute non-viral hepatitis since August 2020 within 30 days of drinking Real Water to complete a survey at www.maricopa.gov/5720/Acute-Hepatitis-associated-with-Real-Wat. Healthcare providers can report suspected cases to the county’s surveillance nurse at 602-506-6767.
Arizona does not require health care professionals to report non-viral hepatitis to public health departments, ADHS spokesperson Steve Elliott said.
However, doctors, hospitals, poison control and laboratories often notify county health officials of incidents that may be concerning, he said. Local health departments can also detect potential cases by looking at hospital data, Elliott added.
Symptoms of hepatitis can include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay or gray-colored bowel movements, joint pain, yellow eyes and jaundice, according to the FDA. Anyone with such symptoms should contact a doctor.
- If you received Real Water bottles at your home or office, contact the company to have them picked up by calling 702-310-5437 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific time Monday through Saturday or by emailing [email protected]
- If you purchased Real Water ready-to-drink bottles online or at a retail store, you can return them to the location for a refund.
- Do not drink, cook with, sell or serve the product.
- If you or someone you know may have been sickened by Real Water’s products, first contact a doctor.
- Then report the problem to the FDA. The consumer complaint coordinator for Arizona can be reached at 303-236-3044. For other states, go to www.fda.gov/safety/report-problem-fda/consumer-complaint-coordinators.
- For those living in Maricopa County, complete a survey to notify the public health department of your symptoms at https://www.maricopa.gov/5720/Acute-Hepatitis-associated-with-Real-Wat. Once you complete the survey, a public health professional will assess the information and reach out to you if more information is needed.
- Maricopa County health care providers can report suspected cases to the county’s surveillance nurse at 602-506-6767.