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Toxic Pesticides Found in India's Soft Drinks

NEW DELHI, India, August 5, 2003 (ENS) - Toxic pesticides in concentrations far higher than permitted by the European Economic Commission have been found in 12 cold drink brands sold in and around New Delhi. The results, released today, are based on tests conducted by the Pollution Monitoring Laboratory of the Centre for Science and Environment, a prominent environmental organization based in New Delhi.

The environmental group said, "12 major cold drink brands sold in and around Delhi contain a deadly cocktail of pesticide residues." Mirinda lemon was named as the drink with the highest levels of pesticides.

The charges that market leaders Coca-Cola and Pepsi contained pesticide residues up to 36 times higher than permitted, brought the heads of Coca-Cola India and Pepsi India out on the same platform today for the first time to jointly deny that their drinks contain harmful pesticides.

Sanjeev Gupta, president of Coca-Cola India said his company's products have been repeatedly tested for safety "in top grade laboratories in India and abroad."

PepsiCo Holdings India chairman Rajeev Bakshi called the report "baseless," and said it should be "disregarded."

drinks

Soft drinks and fruit on sale at an Indian food stand. (Photo credit unknown)
Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said its lab tests showed that all samples, including those of Coke and Pepsi contained residues of four toxic pesticides and insecticides - lindane, DDT, malathion and chlorpyrifos.

The Pollution Monitoring Laboratory found no pesticide residues in bottles of the two soft drink brands sold in the United States.

A total of 36 soft drinks samples of 12 brands were tested for 16 organochlorine pesticides, 12 organophosphorus and four pyrethroides pesticides most commonly used in India.

CSE says the lab tested these samples with a widely and internationally used methodology based on U.S. Environment Protection Agency methodology for organochlorine pesticide and organophosphorus pesticide detection.

The environmental organization blamed the high levels of pesticide residues on the chemical contamination of ground water used as the basic raw material in the soft drink industry.

"Total pesticides in all PepsiCo brands on an average were 0.0180 milligrammes per litre (mg/l), 36 times higher than the EEC limit for total pesticides (0.0005 mg/l)," CSE said the lab results showed. "Total pesticides in all Coca-Cola brands on an average were 0.0150 mg/l, 30 times higher than the EEC limit."

In its report, CSE criticizes the "non-existent" regulations that India has imposed on the "powerful and massive soft drinks industry."

The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act of 1954, or the Fruit Products Order of 1955 - both mandatory acts aimed at regulating the quality of contents in beverages such as cold drinks - do not provide any scope for regulating pesticides in soft drinks, the CSE said.

The Fruit Products Order, under which the soft drinks industry gets its license to operate, has standards for lead and arsenic that are 50 times higher than those allowed for the bottled water industry, said the CSE report.

The sector is also exempted from the provisions of industrial licensing under the Industries (Development and Regulation) Act of 1951.

Soft drinks manufacturers get a one time license to operate from the Ministry of Food Processing Industries. The CSE states that this license includes a no-objection certificate from the local government as well as the state pollution control board, and a water analysis report. "There are no environmental impact assessments, or siting regulations. The industry's use of water, therefore, is not regulated," CSE said.

"The norms that exist to regulate the quality of cold drinks are a maze of meaningless definitions. This food sector is virtually unregulated," said the environmental organization.

On behalf of Coca-Cola, Gupta called for the appointment of an independent panel of inquiry to probe the allegations. He said "trial by media" of this issue is unacceptable.

The CSE soft drinks report can be read in full at: http://www.cseindia.org/html/cola-indepth/softdrinks_report.pdf



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