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Residues Of Toxic Pesticides In
12 Soft Drink Brands

The Hindu
06 August 2003

NEW DELHI AUG. 5. The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) today announced that 12 soft drink brands collected for testing from in and around Delhi contained residues of four extremely toxic pesticides and insecticides — lindane, DDT, malathion and chlorpyrifos. The multinational companies Coca-Cola and PepsiCo immediately challenged the report and indicated that they might consider legal action.

Presenting the findings at a press conference here today, the Director, CSE, Sunita Narain, said that in all the samples, the levels of pesticide residues far exceeded the maximum residue limit for pesticides in water used as "food'' as set down by the European Economic Commission (EEC).

She said that each sample had enough poison to cause long-term cancer, damage to the nervous and reproductive systems, birth defects and severe disruption of the immune system.

The tested soft drinks include Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Mountain Dew, Diet Pepsi, Mirinda Orange, Mirinda Lemon, Blue Pepsi, 7Up, Fanta, Limca, Sprite and Thums Up.

Ms. Narain said that according to the findings, Coca-Cola and Pepsi had almost similar concentration of pesticide residues. While contaminants in Pepsi were 37 times higher than the EEC limit, Coca-Cola overstepped the norm having 45 times the prescribed limit of pesticide contamination.

Faring the worst in the "health test'', according to her, was Mirinda Lemon followed by Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Fanta, Mirinda Orange, 7Up, Mountain Dew, Limca, Thums Up and Sprite. It was also found that pesticides in soft drinks were similar to bottled water, which the CSE had tested earlier this year.

Releasing the report, Ms. Narain said: "The inference drawn from the tests is that groundwater used for making soft drinks is infested with pesticides. Another interesting find was the fact that the same brands found and tested abroad did not contain these pesticides.''

``Why these companies are never booked in India is simply because one cannot take them to court since the norms that regulate manufacture of cold (soft) drinks here are not well defined. The `food' sector is virtually unregulated,'' she said.

Reacting to the CSE report, both the multinational companies — Coca-Cola and Pepsi — described it as "unreliable'' and indicated that they might resort to legal action.

The chairman of PepsiCo, Rajiv Bakshi, said, "Our company is well within the limits of the pesticide residue norms set by the European Union for water used in products within public domain. We conform to all norms and are open to all testing by an internationally-accredited independent laboratory and by experienced people.''

The chief executive officer of Coke, Sanjiv Gupta, said, "Our product is world class and is the same we sell in Europe and the U.S. These are tested by top grade labs like Vimta in Hyderabad and TNO in the Netherlands.'' Claiming that this was a "bigger'' controversy than the previous drinking water report, Mr. Gupta said his company had not moved the court previously because it thought "the controversy did not directly threaten the reputation of the company''.