Parliamentary Committee Confirms Pesticides in Coca-Cola
NEW DELHI -- A parliamentary committee on Wednesday upheld findings
by an environmental group that drinks made in India by PepsiCo Inc.
and Coca-Cola Co. contained unacceptable amounts of pesticide residue.
The panel also urged the Indian government to set new and stronger
health standards for all beverages sold in the country.
The 15-member committee released its 180-page report in Parliament
six months after the Center for Science and Environment, a private
watchdog group based in New Delhi, asserted that 12 brands of soda
made by the two American companies contained high levels of four extremely
toxic pesticides: lindane, DDT, malathion and chlorpyrifos. The group
said these pesticides could damage the human nervous system.
The report said the center was "correct on the presence of pesticide
residues in carbonated water in respect of three samples each of 12
brand products of PepsiCo and Coca-Cola."
PepsiCo and Coca-Cola responded by saying their beverages in India
were safe and that they followed the same standards here as in the
rest of the world.
"We are happy to have this dialogue about quality that would move
toward building confidence of consumers, as long as it is based on
scientific findings by accredited laboratories," said David Cox, Asia
spokesman for Coca-Cola.
A written statement by PepsiCo said that the "safety of Indian consumers
can be ensured by establishing scientific, health-based safety standards."
The report contradicted a statement made in August by Health Minister
Sushma Swaraj, who told Parliament that independent tests conducted
in government laboratories showed pesticide residues, but that they
were not as high as the environmental group had claimed. Opposition
lawmakers accused the minister of hurriedly absolving the soft drink
manufacturers and demanded that a joint parliamentary committee be
set up to investigate.
The report released Wednesday also criticized Indian regulations on
pesticide residue and public safety, and called on the government
to set stringent safety standards for food and beverages.
"The fact that pesticides were found in Pepsi and Coke bottles is
beyond doubt," said Prithviraj Chavan, a member of the parliamentary
committee. "But the question we need to ask is, did they break any
Indian law? Are the Indian laws strong enough? The answer is no. Indian
safety standards are very poor."
The Center for Science and Environment called the report a victory
for Indian democracy.
"The issue of public health and safety has been vindicated today,"
said Sunita Narain, head of the group. "The report has set an agenda
that goes beyond the current controversy about Pepsi and Coke and
looks at the larger issue of pesticide regulation, groundwater contamination
and the utter lack of accountability of government institutions on
these matters. Their report is historic and reads almost like a manifesto
for environmental action in the country."
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