Pepsi-CSE War Heats Up
Business Standard
August 8, 2006

New Delhi: Pepsi issues ads claiming its products are safe, Coke may follow suit.

Breaking its silence, Pepsi today took out advertisements in newspapers claiming that its soft drinks brands are safe. On its part, later in the day, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) refuted the soft drink company's claims.

To clarify the company's position, Pepsi will be issuing similar ads in regional newspapers. Coca Cola India is also planning a similar strategy to reach out to its consumers.

Pepsi's advertisement said the limits of pesticides allowed by the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act under the health ministry for tea (28,040 times), eggs (11,560 times), rice (34,180 times), apples (30,200 times) and milk products (6,560 times) was much higher than the permitted levels in soft drinks and that pesticide levels in soft drinks were negligible. CSE has reiterated its stand that soft-drinks are unsafe as they contain pesticide residues way above the standards.

While Pepsi and Coke declined to comment, industry sources said the day CSE came out with the report, the two companies' sales had fallen by 19-20 per cent. They also said sales had recovered since then.

Coca Cola India was also carefully considering how to use the television and radio to present such hard facts, the source added.

CSE however, said the data and information in the advertisement campaigns were misleading and not complete.

“The data they put out in their defence is from the 2004 Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC). But they are selectively quoting from the JPC report to mislead us,” CSE said in a statement.

Both the cola companies however, want to play down the ban imposed by various state governments on sale of colas in schools and the proposed move by the Kerala government to ban colas in the entire state.

Meanwhile, the government today came out with a strong rebuttal to CSE's allegations that the ministry of health and family welfare had been delaying and obstructing the standard setting procedure.

Health Minister A Ramadoss told the Parliament, in a written statement, that the government was treating the issue of pesticides in soft drinks with utmost seriousness and would take all necessary steps.

The minister also informed Parliament that committees had been set up to aid to fix the maximum residue limits in carbonated beverages, fruits and vegetable fruits.

It has also requested the ministry of agriculture to provide residue data of all pesticides for use on sugarcane and streamlined the process of fixation of MRLs.

The ministry has also commissioned a pilot study of 200 sugar samples which had not found pesticide residues in the samples collected and tested. The data is currently under review.

“It was decided to undertake a comprehensive multi centre study using LC-MS-MS which is the most sophisticated equipment to detect even the slightest traces of pesticides,” added the minister.

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