Pesticides Issue in India Goes Beyond Cola Companies
The pesti-cola imbroglio may snowball into a larger controversy engulfing
the entire branded beverage market.
Documents available with ET show that FMCG giants like HLL, Nestle
and alcoholic beverage major United Breweries (UB) had participated
in a meeting of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) Committee on
finalising the standards for drinks and carbonated beverages.
The standard called IS-2346 has been under discussion for the past
three years. It defines the quality norms which all carbonated drinks
need to meet. The HLL, Nestle and UB representatives were part of
the discussion as they also make carbonated drinks. Several associations
of water packaging companies were also part of the discussion.
Interestingly, the minutes of the March 29 committee meeting to finalise
draft standards for carbonated beverages show many dissenting voices,
apart from the cola majors.
The HLL representative felt that the new draft standard should not
be adopted as "it is not science-based." HLL also made the point that
cola drinks are too complex in nature and, unlike water, it is not
easy to check the pesticide residues.
IS-2346 defines not only the quality to be maintained pertaining to
pesticides, but covers all aspects of manufacturing, packaging, ingredients,
and labelling prohibitions.
For instance, carbonated drinks cannot claim medicinal affects like
preventive, alleviative or curative in nature on the labels. It also
recommends markings like "The beverage is not recommended for children,
pregnant or lactating women and individuals sensitive to caffeine."
The representative of the Confederation of Indian Food Trade and Industry(CIFTI)
said they were not against the formulation of a standard, but they
would like the carry-over principle on raw products to be adopted
while fixing the pesticide residues limit.
This clearly implies the entire organised food industry is anxious
and want to shift the focus of new standards on inputs rather than
finished products. This was demonstrated in the way the food industry
representatives supported the cause of carbonated drinks in the March
There is possibly a fear that after carbonated beverages, other products
such as tea, coffee and juices could also be subjected to the same
pesticide tests and trial by the NGOs.
The meeting of BIS was also attended by a ministry of food processing
representative who opined that no action should be taken with respect
to formulation of standards till the report of a high-powered committee
under the chairmanship of the director general, Indian Council of
Medical Research was finalised.
This view was dittoed by the ministry of health at the meeting. The
high-powered committee is currently testing a large number of beverage
products, including non-carbonated ones from non-Cola FMC companies.
No time frame has been fixed for delivering the results of the pilot
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