India's Gujarat Bans Coke, Pepsi from Schools
August 6, 2006

AHMEDABAD, India - Officials in Gujarat have banned fizzy drinks from hundreds of state school and college canteens after a pressure group said it had found pesticides in those produced by the Indian arms of Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

"We do not want to sell these drinks in educational institutions until we are sure about the content," the state's education minister, Anandiben Patel, told Reuters.

The ban will apply to about 300 colleges and 600 schools.

A study released last week by the Delhi-based Center for Science and Environment found an average pesticide residue of 11.85 parts per billion in 57 samples of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo drinks produced in 12 Indian states.

This is about 24 times higher than limits agreed, but not yet enforced, by the Bureau of Indian Standards.

A similar study in 2003 by the same organization briefly dented sales of the two companies' drinks when it reported levels of pesticide in excess of international standards, highlighting weak food safety laws in the country.

Both companies, in a statement issued on Wednesday by the Indian Soft Drink Manufacturers' Association, said their drinks were safe and they held consumer safety paramount.

The CSE said pesticide levels were not necessarily any higher in cola than in other foods and drinks routinely consumed by Indians. The difference is that soft drinks do not have enough nutritional value to make consuming trace amounts of pesticide worth the trade-off, it said.

Rajasthan banned Coke and Pepsi drinks from all the state's educational institutions following the study's release.

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