CSE Demolishes Claims Made by Cola Companies
Cola companies claim that they are safe: but their bottles cannot
be tested because they are a complex product. They claim purity of
products but resist any regulation on purity.
We say: This is the crux of the cola-pesticide issue that is now out
in the open. We have repeatedly said that regulations, not bans, are
the answer. But for this, the soft drink industry must stop its game
of hiding behind weak laws. This is a matter of public health. It
cannot be compromised.
New Delhi, August 11, 2006: A week after CSE released
its report on pesticide residues in soft drinks, the cola companies
have finally come out in the open, again claiming their products meet
standards and are safe. CSE asserts that the products tested by its
lab do not meet the norms, both Indian and European Union, as claimed
and are unsafe.
In its recent press release, Coca-Cola resorts to another round of
obfuscation by claiming that there are "no detectable levels of pesticides"
in the soft drinks manufactured by it in India. It claims that its
soft drinks have been regularly tested and evaluated by a world-renowned
UK-based lab. Ironically, the same companies have repeatedly told
the government ministries and comitees that their products are a complex
matrix and therefore cannot be tested.
Also, the company has failed to disclose any test results to prove
the safety of its products. Three years ago, in response to CSE's
findings, soft drink companies had issued similar statements claiming
they were meeting "strict European Union standards". But tests by
several other labs had found that they did contain high levels of
pesticide residues and were not meeting the norms as they claimed.
The cola companies are using the bogey of "good science" and "global
practice" in their opposition to be regulated. But these are issues
that have been discussed for the past three years, since the release
of the first CSE report on pesticides in soft drinks in 2003 and the
subsequent report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC). It will
be recalled that the JPC had endorsed the CSE findings and had asked
government to set final product standards for carbonated beverages,
even if this was not done in other countries. The companies have since
resisted (and colluded with government) to ensure that this final
standard is not notified (see the chronology of events at http://www.cseindia.org/misc/cola-indepth/cola2006/events.htm).
This is clearly unacceptable as it means that soft drinks will remain
outside the ambit of regulations, says CSE. "Our demand to government
is: notify the finalised standards of the Bureau of Indian Standards
(BIS) for carbonated beverages and make the regulation for this product
mandatory," says Sunita Narain, director, CSE.
On setting final product standards
Companies say that a standard for final product (the bottle of soft
drink) cannot be set. Instead, they want government to regulate their
input – agricultural raw commodities and water. In other words, they
only want standards for the water and sugar they use, not the product
that they sell on the shelves. They say this is not done anywhere
in the world. But the fact is that governments do set pesticide residue
standards for even more complex food like baby food and ice cream.
On working with government
Coca-Cola has claimed that it is working with the government bodies
to finalise criteria on pesticide residues. Yes, the soft drink companies
have been working, but only to oppose final product standards. The
cola companies have used one pretext or the other to avoid setting
final product standard. In fact, they have written to the government
departments protesting against finalisation of standards.
CSE asserts that there is no need for any further studies or reviews
or committees. The BIS committee has for the last three years addressed
each and every issue raised by the cola companies and, based on sound
science, has finalised the standards. Such tactics of the government
are meant to prevaricate and derail the entire process. The only thing
now left for the government is to notify the standards finalised by
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