Nestle, the Stamford, Conn.-based owner of the Poland Spring brand, has increased the frequency of its quality control testing in response to a spike in consumer complaints traced to bacteria in Poland Spring water.

The bacteria, which affected water in 3- and 5-gallon containers bottled at Nestle’s plant in Framingham, Mass., poses no risk to human health, say Nestle executives and Framingham health officials.

“This was aesthetic only and was not of any health concern,” said Nestle spokeswoman Jane Lazgin. “It’s safe to drink, and is only affecting a small number of bottles.”

The bacteria did, however, cause odor and taste problems that prompted 3,500 complaints through May, said Lazgin.

Nestle traced the issue to heterotrophic plate count bacteria, which company officials said is frequently found in water and on foods, and is harmless.

Lazgin said the contamination originated at the Framingham facility, possibly from water that was used to clean bottles. The bacteria was not in the water that was shipped from Maine, said Lazgin.

Kevin Mathews, Nestle’s director of health and environmental affairs, said the company has increased testing for the bacteria and has been “monitoring bottle washers and the temperature of rinse water.”

Lazgin said Nestle made other changes.

“We made some adjustments to the sanitizing process and began to purify the water that is used to rinse the bottles,” she said.

Lazgin said consumer complaints have been decreasing.

Although some consumers claimed to have been made sick by drinking the water, Mathews said Nestle’s testing indicated that nothing harmful was in it.

“We couldn’t find anything in any samples … that would create or cause illness,” he said.

Ethan Mascoop, public health director for the town of Framingham, said it’s too early to determine whether Nestle’s changes and improved quality control measures have had an effect.

He said there were “no emergency health issues” with the bacteria.

Lazgin said the company started receiving consumer complaints in early 2011.

Staff Writer Jonathan Hemmerdinger can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

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